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Now Us Pan Patent Holders Hunting
Top Trini Tuners

By Terry Joseph
May 17, 2002

The two American pan manufacturers who secured a controversial US patent to mass-produce steelband instruments, are now seeking to lure top Trini tuners to help them complete their work.

News that George Whitmyre and Harvey J Price had been granted a patent to manufacture pans using a hydroforming process invented here since the late 1960s rattled Trinis, from street-level to the Prime Ministerís office.

The Legal Affairs Ministry is mounting a challenge to the patent on the basis that such a process was earlier developed here by a team working at the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri) in Trinidad.

Clemont Imbert Richard Mc David, prime movers in the engineering research done here have publicly offered to provide technical information that would render the patent assailable. Up to Friday last, Imbert said he was yet to receive any enquiries from Legal Affairs.

Whitmyre and Price are due to demonstrate finished products at Sete, France, during the European pan final scheduled for May 24 to 27. Their hydroforming process uses stainless steel to make pans and is capable of producing instruments for all orchestral voices in the steelband.

But the patent holders have run into trouble with demand for fine-tuning, the most crucial aspect of producing marketable instruments. A Trinidadian, one of two tuners working with Whitmyre over the past nine years, is currently hospitalised with lung cancer.

Last week, Whitmyre called Pan Trinbago president Patrick Arnold (himself a professional pan tuner) asking for help in sourcing new talent, preferably top-drawer local artisans, to finesse his building stockpile of drums.

Whitmyre, who runs a school band in the US promised to send one of his hydroform-press manufactured instruments to Pan Trinbago for comparison with local products. "He expressed satisfaction with the instruments they are making," Arnold said.

"They have come up with a low-carbon stainless steel for making pans, which reduced the kind of problems presented by harder steel, one of which is bursting during the sinking process. Whitmyre actually played one of his instruments on the phone and frankly, it didnít sound bad," Arnold said.

The pan patent conflict has attracted international attention. BBC journalist Ben Mead has shown continuing interest in developments arising. Last week he again interviewed Arnold, probing progress on the issue.

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