Poems in Steel: National Socialism and the Politics of Inventing from Weimar to Bonn

By Kees Gispen | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
STRUGGLES AND SETBACKS, 1920–1924

The ability to compromise, which characterized relations between management and salaried inventors in the chemical industry, was lacking in mechanical and electrical engineering. When engineering industrialists got wind of what their counterparts in chemistry were up to in late 1919 and early 1920, they became very nervous. Among the first to sound the alarm was Reinhard Poensgen, a spokesman for the mechanical engineering firms in the Ruhr region. Reviewing an early draft of the Chemists’ Contract, Poensgen in November 1919 criticized its inventor clauses as “an extraordinary danger,” which would do “the most serious harm” in his industry. Engineering inventions were invariably the result of collective effort, wrote Poensgen, insisting that “no distinction is to be made between company inventions and individual service inventions …”‘

Poensgen summed up the position of management in the engineering industries: Everything new was a company invention, service inventions and inventor rewards were a nightmare, and the best that employees could hope for they had already got in the June 1919 agreement between the Bavarian metal industrialists and the BUTAB. In fact, the engineering industrialists touted the Bavarian pact as evidence of their flexibility and goodwill and held it up as a model for collective bargaining with other employee organizations. The Association of German Machine-Building Firms (Verein Deutscher Maschinenbau-Anstalten, VDMA) portrayed the Bavarian inventor clauses as a point of harmony between employers and employees.2 The Federation of German Metal Industrialists (Gesamtverband Deutscher Metallindustrieller, GDM) recommended them for patent agreements in individual employment contracts. Even this was too

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