Based on the true story of college professor and part-time inventor Robert Kearns' long battle with the U.S. automobile industry, Flash of Genius tells the tale of one man whose fight to receive recognition for his ingenuity would come at a heavy price. But this determined engineer refused to be silenced, and he took on the corporate titans in a battle that nobody thought he could win. The Kearns were a typical 1960s Detroit family, trying to live their version of the American Dream. Local university professor Bob married teacher Phyllis and, by their mid-thirties, had six kids who brought them a hectic but satisfying Midwestern existence. When Bob invents a device that would eventually be used by every car in the world, the Kearns think they have struck gold. But their aspirations are dashed after the auto giants who embraced Bob's creation unceremoniously shunned the man who invented it. Ignored, threatened and then buried in years of litigation, Bob is haunted by what was done to ... Written by
The film's title comes from the 1941 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Cuno Engineering Corp. v. Automatic Devices Corp. that suggested an invention had to reveal the "flash of creative genius" to be patentable. A new U.S. patent act took effect in 1952 that eliminated the "flash of creative genius" requirement by adding the provision that "Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the invention was made." In effect, the new provision recognized that patentable inventions can result from long toil and experimentation. See more »
The period was between 1967 and
1974. In 1970 the main character, Bob Kearns, took a bus to Washington, DC. We see it is a Greyhound bus. However, that model type bus, the MC9, had not been built for several years in the future. See more »
Whatever happened to this little thing called justice we talked about?
This is justice, Bob. This is how justice is dispensed in this country - with checkbooks. There are no brass bands, you know, there are no ticker tape parades, the mayor doesn't give you the key to the city and call you a hero. You get a check, and that check makes the lives of you and your family a little easier... a little more pleasant. It's that simple.
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Today there are over 145 million automobiles on the road with the Intermittent Windshield Wiper. See more »
Just imagine over 30 years ago inventing something as useful as the intermittent windshield wiper, a device everyone uses when it rains. Now that's immortality for inventor Bob Kearns, professor and engineer.
What is more astonishing is he was almost forgotten after the Ford Motor Company usurped the design and promoted it as its own. The dramatic tension is Kearns' fight for recognition involving years of personal and familial losses. The two moments of inspiration, the "flash of genius," one a personal eye injury and the other driving in the driving rain, are dramatically satisfying if not downright underplayed (appealing to my minimalist sensibilities).
The film is exciting when Kearns is developing the device with those design inspiration moments fleshed out and the partnering with Ford slowly materializing. The film slows down as if in a school zone when at least a third of the Kearns' time is spent struggling with wife Phyllis Kearns (Lauren Graham) over the cost to them in time and trauma to go after Ford. The dutiful wife suffering the ambitious husband has been played in American cinema and theater too much to be fresh, no different here. The scenes with family, especially his wife, evoke my usual response: All right, already, I get the point. Now get on to the good stuff.
Similarly, Kinnear plays Kearns so low key as to be soporific. Although I don't doubt Kearns was an introverted geek, a dramatic rendition would have enlivened the character without compromising his essence.
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