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Wright Brothers vs. Glenn Curtiss 304

jvmatthe writes "Today's All Things Considered on NPR had a story about intellectual property and patents from America's history that could have been ripped from today's Slashdot headlines, yet it happened almost a century ago. It discussed how the Wright Brothers, considered the fathers of modern heaver-than-air-flight, had tried to lock up the skies after their patenting of the ideas used to build their airplanes. They had a long, bitter legal battle with Glenn H. Curtiss who also made airplanes; Curtiss is credited with being "the first to make a public flight in the United States, the first to sell a commercial airplane, the first to fly from one American city to another, and the first to receive a U.S. pilot license", among other things. Here's where it really gets interesting: the patent battles dragged on and apparently could have actually hindered the growth of the American airplane industry. It wasn't until World War I that people put aside their differences for the common good and the industry worked together in a spirit of free exchange of ideas! So, does is this a sign for how we might eventually get out of the patent mess we're in now? Some catastrophic event brings everyone together and the locking up of ideas with overly broad patents finally ends? For more reading, the NPR story focussed on Unlocking the Sky by Seth Shulman."
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Wright Brothers vs. Glenn Curtiss

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  • Put aside? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Telecommando ( 513768 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:22AM (#4335193)
    It wasn't until World War I that people put aside their differences for the common good and the industry worked together in a spirit of free exchange of ideas!

    It's my understanding that the two parties didn't just "put aside" their differences, the US government paid off each side and told them to quit fighting and get to work building better airplanes and that the government wouldn't allow enforcement of any of their patents. For the good of the country.
  • by ParnBR ( 601156 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:31AM (#4335252) Homepage
    In fact, Santos Dumont is considered the father of modern heavier-than-air flight in many countries other than the USA. This is because the first heavier-than-air flight with witnesses was with his airplane 14-bis. The Wright Bros. allegedly flied before Santos Dumont, but they didn't have witnesses. Also, the 14-bis was self-powered. Santos Dumont made his public demonstration in the Bagatelle Field, in Paris, in 1906, while the Wright Bros. only could publicly show their airplane in 1908. Just for the sake of information.
  • Re:Its too late (Score:3, Informative)

    by radja ( 58949 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:31AM (#4335259) Homepage
    people may help. but most patents are in the hands of large companies. Companies almost never help, look at the pharmaceutical industry and Africa's AIDS problem.
  • by codingOgre ( 259310 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:33AM (#4335267)

    It wasn't until World War I that people put aside their differences for the common good and the industry worked together in a spirit of free exchange of ideas!

    I also listened to that NPR broadcast and there is a clarification I would like to make. The parties involved didn't just set aside their differences for WW1. The U.S. government had to step in and effectively end the lawsuit by paying *both* parties. This action then cleared to way for all parties in the airplane industry to work together.

  • by ptomblin ( 1378 ) <> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:48AM (#4335370) Homepage Journal
    Wrong on several counts. While the Wright Brother's first flight wasn't "open to the public", they did have several witnesses, as they invited some people from the local coast guard station to watch. Also, Santos Dumont's public flight was mere seconds of barely controlled flailing around at a time when the Wrights were making figure eight flights around pylons.

    The proof is in who made a success of building aircraft after the first one. Santos Dumount's plane was crap, and went on the scrap heap of history. Wright Brothers, because they understood the concepts of control and aerodynamics, went on to build a highly successful aircraft company based on ever better aircraft. By 1908, the Wrights were demonstrating flights of an hour or more and carrying passengers.
  • Glen Curtis Museum (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lahjik ( 181864 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:51AM (#4335385)
    Since you have just about Slashdotted the poor little Glenn Curtiss Museum just down the road from me, let me give you some highlights about this amazing man. More information at the Glenn Curtiss Historical Site [].

    Glenn Curtiss was not only a true pioneer in the world of aviation, but also in motorcycles. He had the distinction of being the "Fastest Man Alive" for a good period of time after putting his V-8 motorcycle to the speed test. The motorcycle featured at the small museum in Hammondsport, NY - about 1 hour south of Rochester, NY in the heart of New York's Wine Country. The motorcycle, really just a huge engine with a very small seat, is quite an impressive little beast [].

    Curtiss also developed and implemented seaplanes and aircraft carriers. My wife's grandfather actually saw Glenn Curtiss piloting one of his "Flying Boats" []. Her grandfather was beaten by his blind father for insisting that there was a boat flying over Keuka Lake!

    If you are ever in Upstate NY I highly recommend the Glenn Curtiss Museum. The last time I was there, they even had a great exhibit of classic comic book covers by Dick Ayers [].
  • by ptomblin ( 1378 ) <> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:22AM (#4335611) Homepage Journal
    because they didn't want to benefit humankind as Alberto Santos-Dumont wanted, but just to make a profit.

    It might frighten you to learn this, but making a profit on your work is not evil.

    Besides, what does that have to do with anything. You tried to make it sound like the Wright Brothers didn't fly until after Santos Dumont, and you asserted that there were no witnesses to the 1903 flight. I showed that you were wrong, and you came back with this crap about them not publicizing it. Did you know that the day of the flight, they approached local newspapers and nobody was interested in the story?

    He didn't ever need a catapult
    And by 1906, neither did the Wrights.

    Good they succeeded where they should have started, at services
    I don't know where you get this idea from. They built an airplane company that built airplanes. Those are things, not services. They built them to make money, which evidently you consider evil, but they were highly successful at it and the name Wright was on an aircraft company until well after World War II.

    Your aggressiveness and arrogance shows you are a mostly insecure person.
    The fact that when you can't win an argument on your phoney made up "facts" you resort to personal attacks shows a lot more about your personality than it does about mine.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:43AM (#4335753)
    Lilenthal must be given a huge amount of credit in the work that lead up to the invention of the aeroplane.

    Lilenthal's lift tables were used by almost everyone in that era, including the Wright Brothers (in 1900 and 1901). They ended up being wrong because Lilenthal had used the accepted value of Smeaton's Coefficient at the time, which was wrong and destroyed the value of his tables. (Values at the time ranged from .002 to as high as .006).

    The Wright Brothers, independently, measured the value of Smeaton's Coefficient at .0033 and this, in part, helped them accurately calculate lift.

    Today, with all of our technology at our disposal, this value has been refined to .003289. The Wrights were off by only .000011!!

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