The Wright Brothers and Patenting

Innovation: Maciej posts a fantastic look back on the Wright Brothers from an interesting angle — their patent-related antics.

The Wright brothers won every patent case they fought, and it did them absolutely no good. The prospect of a fortune wasn’t what motivated them to build an airplane, but ironically enough they could have made a fortune had they just passed on the litigation. In 1905, the Wrights were five years ahead of any potential competitor, and posessed a priceless body of practical knowledge. Their trade secrets and accumulated experience alone would have made them the leaders in the field, especially if they had teamed up with Curtiss. Instead, they got to watch heavily government-subsidized programs in Europe take the technical lead in airplane design as American aviation stagnated.

Fantastic article. If you’re curious about the history of patenting, and its many fundamental failures, I can’t recommend it enough.

Weblogs: Guardian’s ‘best of British blogging’: good set of winners this year.

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