Why would Microsoft patent a 'butt hinge with butt straps'?

Two-and-a-half-years after posing that bizarre question, we have an answer

Patent drawing
Not that I was losing sleep or anything, but the question in my blog headline -- "Why does the maker of Windows hold a patent on a door hinge? -- had gone unanswered since Dec. 14, 2006.

Now, thanks to the inventor's grandson, we are able to put this mystery to rest.

From the 2006 post:

That there is a patent on file with the United States Patent Office for something called a "butt hinge with integrally formed butt straps" is odd enough -- and in a patently obscene sort of way, too.

That the patent is held by the world's most famous software company makes one wonder exactly what the limits might be on Microsoft's well-publicized efforts to diversify its product portfolio.

The patent was granted in 1998 and received a dribble of publicity in 1999, but I'm hard pressed to find any meaningful explanation for a door hinge being in the control of the company that made Windows famous.

You can look for yourself in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database: Patent No. 5,819,372; inventor: Robert D. Magoon, Duluth, Ga.; assignee: Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Wash.

I asked Microsoft's public relations department at the time but they were unable to assist.

Then life moved on.

Fast-forward to July, 2009 and I receive an e-mail with the subject line: "Info regarding your article from 12/14/06." Writes Rob Roeder:

I recently stumbled upon one of your articles and have some more info for you regarding the background story of Microsoft's butt hinge with butt straps.

I am the grandson of Robert D. Magoon, subject of your article. After finding this article on the Internet by chance, I asked him about it and he gave me the lowdown on the whole story.

The patent was originally (and still is) owned by Kawneer Company. When the patent was originally made, the patent office accidently registered the "butt hinge with butt straps" to Microsoft instead of Kawneer. The error was quickly fixed, and the patent is now owned by Kawneer. Microsoft never actually owned the rights to the patent.

Incompetence, not intrigue. I should have guessed.

But, while I wouldn't dream of questioning the recall of Mr. Magoon or the veracity of his grandson, I do find it curious that a decade after the mistake there remains the erroneous document posted for all the Internet to see. Nor could I find a correct version of the patent naming Kawneer as the holder.

However, a search on the company's Web site shows that Kawneer does sell butt hinges.

And a search on Microsoft.com shows that Microsoft does not.

Mystery solved, all right.

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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