By James Dunworth (E-Cigarette Direct)
The scene: A Vape Rally in downtown Los Angeles.
The inventor of the e-cigarette stands up in front of hundreds of vapers to talk.
“Show me the fire if that’s smoke,” the former smoker tells the approving audience.
But if you think that vaping is a modern phenomenon invited in China, you might be surprised.
A Decades Old Invention – Suppressed by Big Industry
The inventor is not Chinese. And he’s not young, either.
Herbert Gilbert is in his 80’s, and his invention dates back to 1963 when he submitted his patent.
Prototypes were manufactured – and they worked.
So why did it take over 40 years to become a phenomenon?
“Those I showed it to could have done it, but they chose to wait for the patent to expire and then filed their own versions,” said Herbert in an interview.
“I showed it to chemical companies, pharmaceutical companies and tobacco companies and they did what they did to try to protect their markets.”
Other people have suggested he was ahead of his time, and Herbert agrees.
So who invented the modern e-cigarette?
Hon Lik springs to most people’s lips. However, inventor Stephen Vlachos claims that he was the first to create the e-cigarette.
But with one patent already existing, he decided not to submit a second patent.
Others were not deterred.
Inspired by A Dream
Hon Lik claims that the inspiration for the e-cigarette came to him in a dream.
After a night of coughing, the heavy smoker fell into a disturbed sleep, dreaming that he was drowning in a dark blue sea.
Suddenly, the sea turned into a cloud of bright vapour – and Hon Lik awoke with the idea for the e-cigarette.
True or not, Hon Lik struggled to make money from his invention.
Despite lawsuits, his patent was infringed over and over again until finally his company sold the patent to Imperial Tobacco.
The patent is key to ongoing patent wars.
Imperial tobacco is suing a number of companies for breach of the patent. If successful, the lawsuit could devastate the vaping industry and destroy the choice currently available to vapers.
But there’s a problem – and that’s Herbert Gilbert.
“There is no electric cigarette today, that I have seen, that does not follow the basic road map set forth in my original patent. If you remove any part shown in my original patent from their electric cigarette it will not function. It may be positioned differently, sized differently, controlled differently…but…it still follows the road map set forth in my patent drawings.”
If Herbert’s correct, his original patent may still prove a lifesaver for many vapers.