Results 1 to 7 of 7

Thread: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Brisbane
    Posts
    1,542
    Thanks
    106
    Thanked 31 Times in 23 Posts

    Default Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

    Bit of an odd query, perhaps, but I'm wondering if anyone has any knowledge of the workings of IP with pre-war outsourcing of aircraft manufacture?

    For example, Armstrong-Whitworth outsourced Siskin IIIA production to Bristol, Blackburn, Gloster, and Vickers, as they were presumably at capacity with concurrent deliveries contracted for both the Siskin and the Atlas.

    I understand it was also government policy at the time to spread contracts amongst firms to keep them in business and to retain trained staff, to facilitate a rapid, industry-wide response to surge requirements, in an emergency, but how did competing companies protect their designs?

    I'm not seeking a detailed legal run-down, rather just a basic explanation for my own understanding, if someone else has looked into the subject in the scope of their research...?

    Thanks
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Canberra
    Posts
    494
    Thanks
    48
    Thanked 79 Times in 73 Posts

    Default Re: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

    See eg Nevil Shute (NS Norway) Slide Rule , a principal of Airspeed Ltd from the early 1930s, re the manufacturing licence agreements struck with Fokker Netherlands for construction of various Fokker types and also the Douglas DC2 (for which Fokker had a licence agreement with Douglas), c 1934.

    Though Airspeed were not in the end to build any DC2s or Fokker types, there were good enough commercial reasons for the growing firm to have licences to hand for advanced types at that time.
    Negotiations through 1934 also involved the Air Ministry (in relation to defence secrecy re possible RAF orders of Airpseed designs, given the mutual Dutch/British obligations the licences implied).

    The RAF re-armament manufacturing licence agreements between UK aircraft constructors were likely rather easier (less sensitive) to strike.
    Last edited by Don Clark; 22nd March 2023 at 18:55. Reason: sp
    Toujours propos

  3. The Following User Says Thank You to Don Clark For This Useful Post:

    Steve Brew (26th March 2023)

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Lancashire
    Posts
    585
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 14 Times in 14 Posts

    Default Re: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

    Generally, the IP would have been protected by the patent system. Beyond that, it would have been a matter for the AM to arrange licences, no doubt on relaxed terms, for the use of one company's designs. Presumably there was a standing agreement that if you wanted the AM to order your design, you had to be ready to have it built by erstwhile competitors. By the mid-30s this was less relevant because several of these companies had combined into Hawker Siddeley so could manage workloads within themselves.

    Such arrangements continued postwar with the Canberra, Handley Page, Shorts and Avro(?) contributing to the production. Earlier many Vampires were built by English Electric, though this may have been a hangover from the wartime arrangements.

  5. The Following User Says Thank You to Graham Boak For This Useful Post:

    Steve Brew (26th March 2023)

  6. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Brisbane
    Posts
    1,542
    Thanks
    106
    Thanked 31 Times in 23 Posts

    Default Re: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

    Many thanks Don and Graham

    Yes, good point, some of it would no doubt have been protected by patents, but it is interesting to note that the Air Ministry may have gotten involved with licenses - not something that the government would generally get involved with these days, and certainly not for independent designs and builds (though there are no doubt exceptions), as it's far to complicated and prone to legal issues. That said, I would imagine that, even then (i.e. 1920s), the government would have had to approve military-purpose aircraft to be sold overseas, let alone built overseas.

    Thanks for your input

    Cheers
    Steve
    41 (F) Squadron RAF at War and Peace, April 1916-March 1946
    http://brew.clients.ch/41sqnraf.htm

  7. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Lancashire
    Posts
    585
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 14 Times in 14 Posts

    Default Re: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Brew View Post
    Many thanks Don and Graham

    Yes, good point, some of it would no doubt have been protected by patents, but it is interesting to note that the Air Ministry may have gotten involved with licenses - not something that the government would generally get involved with these days, and certainly not for independent designs and builds (though there are no doubt exceptions), as it's far to complicated and prone to legal issues. That said, I would imagine that, even then (i.e. 1920s), the government would have had to approve military-purpose aircraft to be sold overseas, let alone built overseas.

    Thanks for your input

    Cheers
    Steve
    The Air Ministry was very concerned about the survival of large portions of the British aircraft industry post WW2, acknowledging that contracts were not sufficient to keep all firms profitable. Therefore it was necessary to select a few firms as those seen as vital for future expansion, and this meant sharing and passing around the few large contracts that did come along. As this was important to British Defence policy, it was not something that could be left to private concerns, whose commercial interests would always be to keep as much to themselves as possible. This policy was of course condemned by firms outside the select few, particularly new ones that saw a chance to make a profit at certain times. The Ministry did have another strand to their policy, and that was to feed out orders for prototypes in order to save at least the design centres.

  8. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    Posts
    1,249
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 28 Times in 28 Posts

    Default Re: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

    Nothing to do with "Intellectual Property" but definitely to do with the survival of the Royal Air Force in the 1950s, and British military aircraft production at the time, was the American decision to provide generous funds (I presume some sort of loan?) to finance large numbers of new aircraft of the latest types to equip the burgeoning RAF. This included such types as Venoms, Hunters and Swifts, and Canberras, and possibly also aircraft for the Royal Navy. Not certain if any V-bombers were included. Have never seen the exact reasoning for this apparently very generous assistance programme, but my feeling is that it was a pragmatic plan to re-equip the next largest "friendly" air force after the USA with modern and capable types that Britain could scarcely (or probably not at all) afford at the time, and the simple fact would have been that it would be cheaper to finance new British aircraft than supply them directly with new and equivalent American aircraft. Of course the USA also supplied some new American types to fill some serious gaps in the RAF's ranks such as the (99?) B-29s, also Neptunes, Skyraiders, and helicopters, perhaps also other types I have forgotten! I believe all these later aircraft were supplied under "loan & return" arrangements, and were therefore later returned to the USA. The wartime "Lend-Lease" arrangements (also known as "Mutual Aid") for aircraft, armoured and "soft" vehicles and huge amounts of other war-materials were supplied to meet immediate needs under quite different requirements and expectations.

  9. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Lancashire
    Posts
    585
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 14 Times in 14 Posts

    Default Re: Pre-WWII Subcontracted Aircraft Manufacture and Intellectual Property

    The MAP was not restricted to Britain but part of a general aim to strengthen Europe against the believed Russian intention to invade. The US saw itself as overstretched on two fronts, against the Chinese and Russians specifically in Korea, so aircraft and other weapons were provided - exactly as it was with Lend Lease - in the long term interest of US defence and the expansion of US industry. In addition, unlike Lend Lease, money was provided for local industries in support of their air forces; not just the UK but also France and I believe Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. This is why, at the end of the Cold War French aircraft, notably Mysteres and F-100s, ended up in US bases in the UK and were made available to UK air museums. Lend-Lease also expected all material to be returned, paid for, or (if not required by the US) reduced to scrap.

    The V-bombers were not so supported (as far as I know) probably because they would be seen as part of the UK atomic weapon programme. The wartime programme had been done in common, but at the end of the war the US had cut all cooperation with its helpers and the UK's programme was necessarily totally independent. As it stayed until the appearance of the SAM 2 and the inability of the UK to produce a mobile ICBM meant the abandoning of any genuine independent programme.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •