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1909 Jesse Adams Dubbs developed a way of demulsify crude oil, specifically to yield heavier fuel oil and asphalt. The byproduct was lots and lots of gasoline – a 30-percent yield, four times greater than conventional refining methods. When Dubbs's son brought this to the attention of the Chicago meat packer J. Ogden Armour, the invention was reviewed by Armour’s patent attorney Frank Belknap.
Belknap reasoned that, if the 1909 Dubbs process could be patented, it would take precedence over a 1912 patent for a similar process granted to William Merrion Burton of the Standard Oil Company of Indiana. With this patent, Armour could demand payments from Standard Oil – and gain retribution against his rival John D. Rockefeller, that company’s principal shareholder.
After acquiring the rights to Dubbs’ invention, Armour created the National Hydrocarbon Company on July 17, 1914 to commercialize 12 inventions held by Dubbs. The company later became Universal Oil Products Company.
Belknap resubmitted the patent application, which was granted on January 5, 1915. The company immediately began preparing legal complaints, and the first of these was filed on August 7, 1916.