updated 12/6/2006 10:36:47 AM ET 2006-12-06T15:36:47

A box containing 23 light bulbs used at the 1890 court case where Thomas Edison defended his patent for the invention is to be auctioned later this month and is expected to fetch up to 300,000 pounds ($600,000).

Christie's auctioneers said the bulbs disappeared after the tussle over U.S. patent number 223,898, but were discovered by chance in 2002 in the attic of a house in the United States in their original wooden case complete with the original key.

According to Web sites devoted to the U.S. inventor and businessman, the 1890 case between Edison Electric Light Company and United States Electric Light Company was one of the world's most important technology infringement cases.

The battle over who would profit from lamps that had been developed by a number of scientists lasted several years and was settled only when John Howell, Edison's key witness, produced the box of light bulbs on July 8, 1890 to seal legal victory.

Soon afterwards financier J.P. Morgan helped arrange a merger between Edison's holdings and a rival firm to form the conglomerate the General Electric Company.

The box of light bulbs is the star lot at a London sale on Dec. 13, and has been given an estimate of 200-300,000 pounds.

Also on offer at the Landmarks of Science auction are Albert Einstein's first scientific essay, a first edition of Charles Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" and an alchemical manuscript by Isaac Newton.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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