Patent Pioneer: L A Groth
Patent Pioneer: L A Groth
Lorenz Albrecht Theodor Groth founded Groth & Co in Stockholm in 1869. As Scandinavia’s first patent agency, he offered to “assist inventors with registering patents”, but also to commercialise the patents and sell the products. The idea came at a good time, coinciding with what is now often called Sweden’s industrial breakthrough.
But everything began in Värmland
On the 2nd of March 1843, Lorentz Albrecht Theodor Groth (L A Groth) was born in Säterud, in the parish of Köla, in Värmland County, in western Sweden. He was the son of Lorentz Adolf Groth (1798-1856) and Fredrika Justina (1815-1876). His father was born in Stockholm but came to work in Värmland, first as a factory worker and metallurgist at Edsvalla Bruk before leaving to become an inspector and later a bookkeeper at Adolfsfors Bruk. Lorentz Albrecht had six siblings: Justina Carolina Adolfina (1837-1859), Adolph Frederik (1839-1870), Anna Evelina (1846-1926), Emelie (1840-1844), Anders Emil (1844-1860) and Emelia Mathilda (1853-1934).
The engineer marries and has four children
At the age of 16, L A Groth began studying at the Institute of Technology in Stockholm (now known as the Royal Institute of Technology, KTH), graduating in 1863. During his studies he resided in Maria Magdalena and Klara parishes in central Stockholm. After graduating in 1863, he started working as an apprentice for the Swedish state railway company between Arvika and the Norwegian border. In the following year he was appointed as the assistant to the district manager of the Southern Road and Water District. In 1865, L A Groth moved from Säterud to Ängelholm with his future wife Agnes Carolina Nyström (1841-1910). Their first child, Anna Carolina Fredrika, was born on the 5th of August in the same year. On the 25th of August, the family moved again, to Malmö. L A Groth was by now a bookkeeper at Malmö station, remaining there until the family moved to Stockholm on the 17th of August 1869. The couple had three more children: Agnes Helmy Olivia born on the 7th of August 1866, Emil Lorents Arvid born on the 5th of November 1868 and Agnes Maria Justina on the 9th of September 1875. The eldest daughter, Anna Carolina Fredrika, died of scarlet fever at the age of four in 1869.
Scandinavia’s first patent agency, 1869
Before Groth & Co, there were no patent attorneys or agencies in Sweden – or even in the rest of Scandinavia. At this time, Sweden was behind the rest of Europe, both in terms of patent agents and patent applications. The number of patent applications was less than 200 each year, and very few foreign inventors applied for patents in Sweden. Swedish inventors usually handled their own patent applications. In this underdeveloped market, L A Groth saw a business opportunity. A few years earlier, he had begun to take an interest in patents and had seen in other European countries the positive effect patent attorneys had on innovation and technological development. L A Groth wanted to achieve the same effect in Sweden.
Sweden received freedom of trade in 1864. Shortly thereafter, in 1869, at the age of 26, L A Groth founded the company Patent- och Agentur-Byrån (The Patent and Agency Office), together with the engineer Axel Herman Weström (1846-1915). After a few years, the name of the company was changed to Skandinaviska Patent- och Agenturbyrån L. A. Groth & Co. (the Scandinavian Patent and Agency Office L. A. Groth & Co.). The company’s first address was Västerlånggatan 53 in L A Groth’s private residence (in what is now known as the Old Town of Stockholm), but in 1975 it moved to Hamngatan 17. The purpose of the company was to “assist inventors with registering patents”, but as this was a completely new type of advice for Scandinavia, only “wholesale and agency activities” are stated in Groth’s company registration.
The early years and the first clients
Our patent book from 1871.
The first patent with L A Groth as the agent was granted on the 30th of March 1871, and referred to as a “Self-lubricating Gasket” on behalf of the trader Carl Otto Gerckens in Turku, Finland. During this period, L A Groth also filed patent applications on behalf of well-known names such as Nikolaus Otto, Gustaf de Laval, Thomas Alva Edison and Alfred Nobel.
With Groth & Co in business, the number of patent applications in Sweden increased and the company was the dominant patent agency in the 1870s. Although a large proportion of the Swedish applicants handled their own patent applications, Groth & Co handled more than a third of all applications in Sweden during the 1870s. For example, Groth & Co represented 83 of 226 patents granted in 1875. Competition became tougher over time and in 1893 there were six patent agencies with addresses in Stockholm.
Among former employees in 1872 were Celina Schrühe and Carl Fredrik Wahlberg, followed by Hilma Augusta Tenander, Theodor Christoffer Svensson and Lars Gustaf Larsson in 1878. Co-founder Axel Herman Weström left the company in 1874.
Sweden’s representative at the first international patent congresses
In 1873, the fifth world exhibition was held in Vienna. It lasted from the 1st of May to the 2rd of November, with 53,000 exhibitors from 35 countries and had more than 7 million visitors. The first international patent congress was also held here, from the 4th to the 8th of August.
At the congress, the Swedish government was represented by L A Groth. The congress discussed three topics: 1 Inventions in all civilised countries should be protected. 2 Fundamentals for an appropriate patent law. 3 Considering the major differences in the laws of the different countries and the major changes that our period has produced, governments should achieve an international agreement for the protection of patent rights. As a result of his work at the patent congress, L A Groth was named as a Knight of the Order of Vasa in the same year, at just 30 years old.
The second international patent congress was held in Paris from the 5th to the 17th of September 1878. By now, L A Groth was a member of the Permanent International Committee on Industrial Property Rights. At the Paris congress, the issues had been broadened, which, in addition to patents, now also included legal and legislative issues relating to designs, trademarks, stamps and trade names, photographic works and international understandings. Here too, L A Groth was the Swedish government’s representative. On his return from the congress, he wrote a statement to the head of the Royal Civil Department, who described it as “an report, which we must confess, struck us particularly through its unusually clear and straightforward manner of presentation”.
L A Groth transfers the company and emigrates to the UK
Civil Engineer Carl Oscar Annell (1843-87) took over the company from L A Groth in 1879. In 1880, engineer and inventor John Edberg (1857-1935) became a partner, and in 1882 he became the sole owner of the company.
On the 16th of February 1880, L A Groth moved from Stockholm to London with one of his children; his son Emil Lorens Arvid. He and his wife Agnes Carolina Nyström separated at this time and the divorce was completed on the 8th of June 1880. Just two weeks later, on the 22nd of June, in Camberwell, London, L A Groth married 17-year-old Winiford Groves from Newington, Surrey. They set up home at 20 Tresco Road in Peckham, London. His ex-wife moved with the couple’s two remaining daughters to Nybrogatan 18 in Stockholm.
In 1878, even before moving to there, L A Groth had founded a new patent agency in London under the name, The Scandinavian Patent-Office L. A. Groth & Co, based at 2 Finsbury Pavement. Once in London, he continued to run that company. He later became President of the Universal Inventors and Patenties Financial Co., Ltd and also the proprietor of the Patent Industrial and Financial Agency.
The new family moves to Sweden before L A Groth dies in Brighton
Together with his new wife, he had the twins Gladys and Lilian Loving, in 1888. In 1891, the family moved to a new address: 36 Womersley Road, Hornsey, Middlesex. After that, the family’s possessions were shipped to Sweden and they live in Vänersborg in 1892-1901. They then move to Antwerp in Belgium and lived there from 1901 to 1915.
Lorentz Albrecht Groth lived his last years in a house at 16-19 Regency Square in the centre of Brighton, where the Topps Hotel is now located. He died in Brighton in 1923, and is buried there.
But what happened next to Groth & Co?!
John Edberg had been the sole owner of the company since 1882 when Carl O. Annell had left the business, probably for health reasons. When the new Swedish Patent Regulation arrived in 1884, more demands were placed on Swedish patent agents. Edberg then took the initiative to launch what is today the Swedish Patent Agents Association (SPOF), together with engineers Knut Y. Zacco, Ernst H. Bruhn and Fredrik L Enqvist.
John Edberg at the office at Malmtorgsgatan 6, circa 1920-1930
In 1911, civil engineer Harry Hammar joined Groth & Co. He was the stepson of Edberg and later became a partner in the company, in 1928. When Edberg died in 1935, Harry Hammar became the sole owner of Groth & Co. In 1935, Harry Hammar, employed his son, engineer Stig Hammar, who became a partner in 1944.
Left: Harry Hammar in the office at Malmtorgsgatan 6, circa 1920-1930. Right: Harry Hammar in 1959
Stig Hammar then led Groth & Co right up to his death in 1980. Partner Jarl Forsheden then took over as Managing Director. In 1982, the company was acquired by three employees: Bo Jörneld, Gunnar Sundkvist and Christer Westerlund. Jörneld was appointed MD and was so until 1994 when Westerlund took office. Westerlund, however, died suddenly in 1995, and Sundkvist took over as MD. Gunnar Sundkvist was MD until 2015, when the current MD Mats Lundberg took office. Groth & Co is today owned by Gunnar Sundkvist together with 15 other active partners.
150 years but only 6 addresses in Stockholm
Groth & Co’s first address was Västerlånggatan 53 in the Old Town, followed by Hamngatan 17 (near what is now Sergels Torg) from 1875. In 1893, the company moved to Brunkebergstorg 18 – a very strategic address in the same building as the Royal Patent Office, which was formed in 1885 (and is now the Swedish Patent and Registration Office, PRV). However, the Royal Patent Office grew rapidly and only two years later, Groth & Co was forced to leave these premises. The company then moved to Malmtorgsgatan 6. There, Groth & Co had its premises for 69 years, until the company moved to Västmannagatan 43 in 1964. The company spent 41 years at that address before Groth & Co moved in 2005 to their current premises – the historic former tram halls at Birger Jarlsgatan 57.