Minox Patents

Minox — the most famous subminiature camera

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Minox is the world’s most famous subminiature camera, which was invented by Walter Zapp and originally manufactured by Valsts elektrotehniskā fabrikaa1 (VEF) in Riga, Latvia. The Walter Zapp’s invention was protected by more than 80 patents in 24 countries. It was a genuine masterpiece of engineering and a work of art. Through the years, the Riga-made Minox reached almost a cult status and is a valuable collector’s item nowadays.

Introduction

Walter Zapp was a Riga-born Baltic German. In 1936, while living in Tallinn, Estonia, he created the first functioning prototype of his subminiature camera. In the same year he signed a contract with Latvian state-owned VEF to move the prototype into production. VEF developed Zapp’s camera from the prototype stage to the final product in a very short time period. The first cameras, named Minox, were produced in 1937. The series production was started in 1938 and continued even during the periods of Soviet and German occupation up to 1942. During the German occupation, the VEF’s manufacturing facilities were looted and the equipment carried off to Germany, and the production of Minox in Riga was consequently never resumed. However, after World War II, a new company was founded in Germany, with participation of Walter Zapp. Although this company was neither affiliated nor endorsed by VEF, it was named as Minox GmbH. In 1948, this company started to produce a new Minox camera, which was based on the design of the original Riga-made Minox. This company still exists, however, it had stopped the production of non-digital subminiature cameras in 2012.

Inventions

The innovative design and technical solutions of the original Minox camera were patented around the world. The first four patent applications were filed in Finland in 1936, followed by two applications in Sweden in 1938. Claiming the priority on these applications, further patent applications were subsequently filed in more than 20 other countries. These patent applications covered different aspects of the camera: film feeding mechanism, camera body, roll film cartridge, lens mechanism, and view-finder. In the same time, VEF filed also trademark applications in several countries for the name “Minox”. The first patents were granted in 1938. However, the last patent was granted in Finland in 1944 when VEF’s Minox manufacturing facilities did not existed anymore. It is known that VEF held a total of 80 granted patents in 24 countries on the Zapp’s invention.

Patent Documents

Film feeding mechanism

CountryKindPublishedFiledPriority
ATPatent15550610.02.193901.12.193721.12.1936 FI
AUPatent10688423.03.193913.09.1938
CAPatent37993907.03.193908.12.1937
CHPatent19980216.11.193807.12.193721.12.1936 FI
CSPatent6749610.05.194002.12.193721.12.1936 FI
DA2Patent258019.01.193808.12.193721.12.1936 FI
DEPatent70158720.01.194102.12.193721.12.1936 FI
DKPatent5636112.06.193915.12.193721.12.1936 FI
EEPatent?3???
FIPatent1914214.08.194221.12.1936-
FRPatent83050902.08.193807.12.193721.12.1936 FI
GBPatent49454427.10.193802.12.193721.12.1936 FI
HUPatent12037301.04.193902.12.193721.12.1936 FI
LVPatent274006.07.1940
ITPatent35790430.03.193718.12.193721.12.1936 FI
PLPatent2883316.04.194101.12.193721.12.1936 FI
SEPatent9252308.06.193811.01.193721.12.1936 FI
USPatent216194113.06.193906.12.193721.12.1936 FI
ZAPatent113703.03.193931.08.1938

Camera body

CountryKindPublishedFiledPriority
ATPatent15601825.04.193901.12.193722.12.1936 FI
AUPatent10688523.03.193913.09.1938
CAPatent37980328.02.193908.12.1937
CHPatent19980316.11.193807.12.193722.12.1936 FI
CSPatent6769510.05.194003.12.193722.12.1936 FI
DA2Patent258319.01.193808.12.193722.12.1936 FI
DEPatent69895220.10.194002.12.193722.12.1936 FI
DKPatent5652407.08.193915.12.193722.12.1936 FI
EEPatent262812.08.193817.12.193722.12.1936 FI
FIPatent2005611.04.194422.12.1936-
FRPatent83055603.08.193808.12.193722.12.1936 FI
GBPatent49514908.11.193802.12.193722.12.1936 FI
HUPatent12086415.06.193902.12.193722.12.1936 FI
INPatent2568515.09.193815.09.193802.12.1937 GB4
ITPatent35722507.03.193818.12.193722.12.1936 FI
LVPatent274106.07.1940
NZPatent8049420.01.194020.09.1938
PLPatent2873515.03.194101.12.193722.12.1936 FI
SEPatent9252408.06.193812.01.193722.12.1936 FI
USPatent216954815.08.193906.12.193722.12.1936 FI
ZAPatent113803.03.193931.08.1938

Roll film cartridge

CountryKindPublishedFiledPriority
ATPatent15550710.02.193902.12.193723.12.1936 FI
AUPatent10705520.04.193913.09.1938
CAPatent38403812.09.193908.12.1937
CHPatent19980616.11.193807.12.193723.12.1936 FI
CSPatent6761425.05.194003.12.193723.12.1936 FI
DA2Patent258119.01.193808.12.193723.12.1936 FI
DEPatent68582527.12.193902.12.193723.12.1936 FI
DKPatent5580006.02.193915.12.193723.12.1936 FI
EEPatent?3???
FIPatent1831922.12.193823.12.1936-
FRPatent83059303.08.193809.12.193723.12.1936 FI
GBPatent49781529.12.193802.12.193723.12.1936 FI
HUPatent12037401.04.193902.12.193723.12.1936 FI
ITPatent35746316.03.193818.12.193723.12.1936 FI
LVPatent275116.09.1940
PLPatent2864426.02.194101.12.193723.12.1936 FI
SEPatent9252608.06.193813.01.193723.12.1936 FI
USPatent221896622.10.194006.12.193723.12.1936 FI
ZAPatent113903.03.193931.08.193823.12.1936 FI

Lens mechanism

CountryKindPublishedFiledPriority
ATPatent15550810.02.193902.12.193724.12.1936 FI
AUPatent10674809.03.193913.09.1938
CHPatent19980416.11.193807.12.193724.12.1936 FI
DA2Patent258219.01.193808.12.193724.12.1936 FI
EEPatent?3???
FIPatent1869004.11.194024.12.1936-
FRPatent83065004.08.193810.12.193724.12.1936 FI
GBPatent50674902.06.193902.12.193724.12.1936 FI
LVPatent274206.07.1940
SEPatent9252508.06.193814.01.193724.12.1936 FI
USPatent214756714.02.193906.12.193724.12.1936 FI

View-finder

CountryKindPublishedFiledPriority
DEPatent70515821.04.194113.08.193810.01.1938 SE
DEPatent70625122.05.194108.01.193923.12.1938 SE
FRPatent84820925.10.193930.12.193810.01.1938 SE
23.12.1938 SE
GBPatent52167928.05.194005.01.193910.01.1938 SE
23.12.1938 SE
SEPatent9834112.03.194210.01.1938-
SEPatent10403017.03.194223.12.1938-
USPatent227850507.04.194209.01.193910.01.1938 SE

Other patents

CountryKindPublishedFiledPriority
ARPatent48091???
EGPatent237???
NOPatent61091???
NOPatent61092???

Further Reading

HENDRE, Enn. Fifty years of the sub-miniature ‘Minox’. History of Photography. 1989, vol. 13, № 1, pp. 9 – 17. ISSN 0308‐7298. DOI: 10.1080/03087298.1989.10442163


  1. Valsts elektrotechniskā fabrika in old Latvian orthography. ↩︎

  2. Free City of Danzig. ↩︎

  3. № 2627, № 2638 or an other unknown number. ↩︎

  4. Reciprocity date. ↩︎