246 - Jean Marie HARMET (1844 - 1926) (1) [1]

Jean-Marie HARMET’s son Henri Guillaume HARMET had invented a process for treating phosphor-containing iron and had obtained a patent for « Perfectionnements aux traitement des fontes » [2]. Like his father, Jean Marie, Henri Guillaume was an engineer and «Directeur de la Société des hauts fourneaux et forges de Denain et d’Auzin». 

In the French patent HARMET explained:

Dans l'affinage des fontes au convertisseur tel qu'il se pra­tique aujourd’hui, le phosphore, protégé par la présence d’un laitier dans lequel domine la silice, échappe entièrement à l’oxydation et se retrouve en totalité dans les aciers.

La modification que j’apporte dans cet affinage et qui fait l’objet du présent brevet a pour but d’arriver à l’oxydation du phosphore aussi complètement qu'à celle du silicium, et conséquemment de pouvoir traiter des fontes phosphoreuses.

L’opération de l’affinage au convertisseur a toujours été unique; elle s’est toujours faite dans un seul convertisseur et sous l’influence d’un même laitier plus ou moins siliceux.

Dans mon procédé, au contraire, l'affinage est divisé en deux opérations complètement distinctes, faites dans deux convertisseurs distincts également et sous l’influence de laitiers essentiellement différents …

HARMET father had filed the application in France on 13 February 1879, but died soon after, on 21 August 1879.

Shortly before he died, HARMET father, had also applied for a Luxembourg patent on 10 August 1879 under the title of:

‍  Procédé de perfectionnement dans le traitement des fontes

The patent was granted under the 1880 Patent Law on 14 July 1880. [5]

After HARMET father’s death, son Henri Guillaume HARMET took over the task of prosecuting his father’s pending application in Great Britain [4] and also applied for a corresponding patent in the USA on 19 September 1879. 

This application met a major obstacle in the USA as it « interfered » with two other patent applications, filed within a time frame of 6 months in 1879, and relating to substantially the same invention. Three patent applications were thus competing for obtaining a US patent on an invention which the US Patent Office summarised as follows:

Desiliconizing the molten iron in a converter with a silicious lining and then, removing the metal to, and further refining it in a converter with a basic (calcareous) lining.

The applicants involved in the dispute were (in the order of the filing dates of their application):

Sidney G. THOMAS     20 May 1879

Jacob REESE                 28 July 1879 

Henri HARMET           19 September 1879

In the so-called « interference » procedure before the US Patent Office,  Jacob REESE prevailed (he was declared « the first to invent ») and HARMET did not obtain a US patent. [6]

Henri Guillaume HARMET filed two more patent applications in Luxembourg (see No 256 and No 278).

From the above US « interference » procedure it becomes clear that THOMAS and HARMET had made similar inventions at about the same time and that their patent rights could possibly collide, depending on the jurisdictions. It would appear that THOMAS and HARMET reached an agreement whereby HARMET’s patents were licensed with THOMAS’ patents as a package. The package also included a patent belonging to RILEY (see No 239).  [7] 


[1] FamilySearch database

[2] FR patent No 129,111

[3] GB patent No 591/1879

[4] US patent application 

[5] LU patent No 8

[6] The US patent legislation at the time was based on the principle of « first to invent » and not on the principle of « first to file ». THOMAS had already obtained his US patent (No 217,962) before the interference procedure started, but it probably was cancelled subsequently or, in effect, became non-enforceable.

[7] Das Thomas-Verfahren in Europa, 2009, Klartext-Verlag,  Jacques MAAS,  pages 133-169