Last Word:Patents stifling Innovation
Much anguish has been expressed over the Apple-Samsung patent court battle. It’s not that this run of patents wars is new – they’ve been a feature of the technology business for over a century
One of the nastiest feuds was between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. Apart from being a brilliant inventor Edison was a consummate litigator. One of the reasons the movie business took root in California was to evade Edison’s patent police. He owned the major patents on movie cameras and pursued anyone who reverse engineered his product. The East coast film producers were obliged to pay large fees to Edison; but on the west coast that was evadable. It is a suitable irony that copyright violation is one of the foundations of American film industry. Edison’s struggle with Westinghouse over alternating current versus direct current power was typically bitter. By 1900 Edison’s legal costs were $2M, equivalent to $52M in today’s money.