I recently passed the patent bar, and I’m currently in the limbo phase before I receive my registration number. This is a big shift for me, as I believe the change will open many doors for me and my business, Simple Patents, which just launched the Simple Patent Attorney Services Department.
I had been a little uncertain about getting a background check, however. Though I’ve always kept my nose clean, both personally and professionally, you never really know what folks may have posted or tweeted about you. So I did the only thing that seemed smart: I googled myself.
“Patrick Walsh” was a little too broad; I limited it to “Patrick Walsh patent,” to see if anything of interest popped up more specific to my career as a professional patent searcher. What I found was this gem of early 1900’s journalism from the New York Times: Dated May 14th, 1909. It reads:
John T. Sherlock, alias John Walsh, and Frederick J. Walsh, his clerk in the fraudulent patent agency concern of Walsh Brothers & Co. at 53 West Twenty-fourth Street, pleaded guilty before Judge Hazel in the United States Circuit Court yesterday to using the mails to defraud. Sherlock was sentenced to two years in the Federal prison at Altanta. He must also pay a fine of $500. Walsh got an eight months’ sentence in the penitentiary with a fine of $100.
The firm advertised as an agency for obtaining patents and represented also that it had exceptional facilities for interesting capitalists in new inventions. When persons came into correspondence or visited the offices Sherlock told them he had a pull with the patent authorities at Washington. Then he charged a registration fee of $4.
Reading further into the article it became apparent that Patrick J. Walsh was the brother of Frederick J. Walsh. This, of course, was not me, nor was it likely a distant ancestor, since my “Walsh Roots” are from St. Louis, not New York.
This stuck with me, first because it was funny, and second because of how similar this was to something you might read today on an invention scam. Apparently, the MO hasn’t changed much in a century. Gain their confidence by portraying yourself as a person with “connections.” Make them believe that they are just one small cash outlay away from riches. And finally, should there be any lingering doubt in the mind of the potential victim, provide “third-party verification,” which is what the Patrick Walsh character in this story was doing. Even back then, the marks were much more likely to believe in the scam if there was some outside, disinterested figure stamping a seal of approval on the whole operation. Of course, one difference is the size of the loss. If you were so unlucky as to fall victim to the former Walsh Bros. & Company, you were only down $4, Even by 1909 standards, $4 isn’t the end of the world.