Walter Ruby sold the rights to his invention

New information discovered this week tends to confirm the story told by our father that his father Walter Ruby sold the rights to his corkscrew invention. Further searching on corkscrew collector sites revealed that an inventor named Knud Knudsen of Danbury, Conn., acquired the Ruby design in 1939 and used it to produce the two devices shown here.

It appears that Ruby and Knudsen independently devised the same S-shape cap lifter as a feature of their otherwise differing corkscrew inventions. Even though Knudsen may have filed for a patent first, Ruby was issued U.S. Design Patent 109,879 for a Combination Pencil, Corkscrew, and Bottle Opener on May 31, 1938.

It seems that this prior art then prevented Knudsen from gaining a patent for his Remover for Bottle Closures, the patent title for what collectors now call the Knudsen Picnic Corkscrew. A year later, Knudsen finally did receive U.S. Patent 2,164,191 for the device and proceeded to bring it to market. The top photo is an example.

I learned from a monograph written in 1989 by Ron MacLean that "a similar model with a mechanical pencil in the case end was also registered by Knud Knudsen as U.S. Design Patent 109,879." He also mentioned two private collectors who had copies of the latter device, but included no photographs. This seemed to suggest that Knudsen had gone on to manufacture and sell a version of the Ruby corkscrew.

Finding evidence of one took another hour or so. Here on the Corkscrewing Around blog is where I found the second image, which the blogger describes as a hard-to-find "Knudsen patent pencil/corkscrew." As you can see, it is nearly identical to the Jim Crax corkscrews pictured in earlier posts, except it adds a pocket clip as an additional component.

So the evidence strongly suggests that Knud Knudsen acquired the rights to the Ruby invention in order to clear the way for his own design, and then also brought the Ruby product to market separately. The family story told by our father was that Walter received a payment of $50,000, which was quite a princely sum in 1939.

So who was Knud Knudsen and why would he invest so much in getting patent rights for a bottle opener design? More on that in an upcoming post.

By the way, here are links to download the Ruby and Knudsen patent documents.