László József Bíró, circa 1978.
|Born||László József Bíró
29 September 1899
|Died||24 October 1985
Buenos Aires, Argentina
|Other names||Ladislas Jozsef Biro|
|Known for||Inventor of the Ballpoint pen|
Bíró was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1899 into a Jewish family. He presented the first production of the ballpoint pen at the Budapest International Fair in 1931. While working as a journalist in Hungary, he noticed that the ink used in newspaper printing dried quickly, leaving the paper dry and smudge-free. He tried using the same ink in a fountain pen but found that it would not flow into the tip, as it was too viscous. Working with his brother György, a chemist, he developed a new tip consisting of a ball that was free to turn in a socket, and as it turned it would pick up ink from a cartridge and then roll to deposit it on the paper. Bíró patented the invention in Paris in 1938.
In 1943 the brothers moved to Argentina. On 10 June they filed another patent, that issued in the USA as US Patent 2,390,636 and formed Biro Pens of Argentina (in fact, in Argentina the ballpoint pen is known as birome). This new design was licensed for production in the United Kingdom for supply to Royal Air Force aircrew, who found they worked much better than fountain pens at high altitude.
Ballpoint pens are widely referred to as "biro" in many countries, including the UK, Ireland, Australia and Italy. Although the word is a registered trademark, it has become a genericised trademark.
The company's intellectual property department keeps a close eye on the media and will often write to publications who use its trade name without a capital letter or as a generic term for ballpoint pens, in order to preserve its trademark. They have written to Private Eye (who printed the letter on their correspondence page under the heading "What a pathetic way to make a living") concerning this on at least one occasion. The Biro is still the main product of companies like Bic, Waterman and Parker.
- Stoyles, Pennie; Peter Pentland (2006). The A to Z of Inventions and Inventors. p. 18. ISBN 1-58340-790-1. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "Golyó a tollban - megemlékezés Bíró László Józsefről". Hungarian Patent Office (in Hungarian). Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "US2390636 "Writing Instrument"". Retrieved 2013-08-05.
- Bevan, Rob; Tim Wright (2004). Unleash Your Creativity: Secrets of Creative Genius. p. 82. ISBN 1-904902-17-0. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- Room, Adrian (1983). Dictionary of Trade Name Origins. Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 0-7102-0174-5. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "Biro nell’Enciclopedia Treccani" (in Italian). Retrieved 2013-05-22.
- Brief biography of Bíró by Budapest Pocket Guide