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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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  • by n-baxley ( 103975 ) <nate@baxleys. o r g> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:16AM (#4335157) Homepage Journal
    the more they stay the same.

    This should be a lesson to us all that although we think that the problems we face are new atnf will soon lead to the end of the world as we know it, we must remember that there have been patents, big companyies, monopolies and greedy people in the past who held great sway on the way things were done. But somehoe things worked out and we made it through. Think of that the next time you get too woried about the end of the world or how evil BillG is.
  • Re:Its too late (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jmu1 ( 183541 ) <jmullman@gaso u . edu> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:28AM (#4335231) Journal
    I don't think it is so much that we would rob the maimed person. I think it is more likely that we would just keep walking, trying hard not to notice the utter pain the other was experiencing.
  • Also worth noting.. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by papskier ( 263483 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @08:53AM (#4335403)
    that they mentioned that even after WWI no airplane patents were issued for nearly 50 years, and American airplane technology still led the world. Also, in the early days of computers (back in the 50's and 60's), all the big players had patents on their technologies but also had informal agreements to not enforce them, for the good of the industry.
  • by richieb ( 3277 ) <richieb.gmail@com> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:02AM (#4335475) Homepage Journal
    and the real inventor was a Brazilian named Santos Dummont whose first flight was in Paris, France.

    There were many who build machines that looked like birds and who tried to fly them. Santos Dumont was one of them, and his machine actually got of the ground.

    However, the Wrights not only got a machine into the air, they figured out how to control it.

    None of the others, like Santos Dumont or Gustav White, or Samuel Langley, had any idea how to steer an airplane (the rudder does not cause the turn).

    The Wrights figured this out and designed a control system that allowed them to fly circle (literally) around any of their competition, who took years to catch up.

  • by leandrod ( 17766 ) <l@@@dutras...org> on Thursday September 26, 2002 @09:09AM (#4335527) Homepage Journal
    > Wrong on several counts.


    > While the Wright Brother's first flight wasn't "open to the public", they did have several witnesses

    But took years to publicise and demonstrate, because they didn't want to benefit humankind as Alberto Santos-Dumont wanted, but just to make a profit.

    > 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.

    Still their flights were secretive, and his were open to the public. He didn't ever need a catapult, and at the time taking off was considered the proof of the pudding.

    > 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

    Alberto Santos-Dumont's models nrs. 19 to 22, the Demoiselles, were nice, graceful light airplanes that reached 96km/h and were used for travelling around up to 18km. He used them to visit friends in the country, as he used his balloons to go around in Paris. It was small enough to be transportable in an automobile. His idea was that it would be used by private individuals.

    > went on to build a highly successful aircraft company based on ever better aircraft.

    Good they succeeded where they should have started, at services, instead of robbing everyone else the benefit of the airplane for 17 years.

    I wonder why only First-World Westerners are allowed any glories. Even former Pres. Clinton admitted to Santos-Dumont's merits. Your aggressiveness and arrogance shows you are a mostly insecure person.

  • by tkrotchko ( 124118 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @10:08AM (#4335955) Homepage
    The problem is congress and the administration are convinced they can protect American interests with these ridiculous IP laws. I believe congress thinks they can: (1) Keep American "domininance" in technology fields (2) Make American companies more profitable over the long term.

    On the surface, it has a lot of appeal; there's the oft repeated mantra that "If I engage in research I should be rewarded; if I don't get rewarded, why would I engage in research. Therefore strong IP are the best way to ensure companies have a reason to innovate".

    The problem is, there doesn't appear to be any evidence this is true, and based on stories like this (and my own experience in the computer field), I think this is exactly wrong. Innovation comes about from the unrestricted sharing of ideas.

    I only hope the US doesn't become a 3rd world technology nation before Congress and the Administration (Clinton, Bush, and future administrations) understands they're destroying what they're trying to protect.
  • by gillbates ( 106458 ) on Thursday September 26, 2002 @10:17AM (#4336026) Homepage Journal

    I've learned to stop worrying so much about DRM, Palladium, Microsoft, etc... simply because I have faith in the ingenuity of people. I used to think that patents and IP prohibited innovation, but it occurs to me that they might actually spur programmers on to invent better ways of doing things, rather than merely copying someone else's idea or program. The reason why so many Open Source advocates have philosophical problems with the patent system is because most Open Source authors are merely copying someone else's idea, rather than inventing something new. I, for one, would like to see Open Source projects that invent something new and useful, rather than just making cheap knock-offs of someone else's program.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 26, 2002 @11:25AM (#4336612)
    Each of the following statements holds some truth.

    NPR has worthwhile content but at times is interested in pushing an agenda (liberal) over seeking out the actual truth.

    FoxNews has worthwhile content but at times is interested in pushing an agenda (conservative) over seeking out the actual truth.

    Slashdot has worthwhile content but at times is interested in pushing an agenda (patents are bad) over seeking out the actual truth.

    I have never seen an actual discussion on /. concerning any of the incredibly interesting published reports that attempt to actually measure the effect of our patent system on innovation.

    Until I do see such a legitimate discussion, I will appreciated these "patents are bad" threads for what they are.

What this country needs is a good five cent ANYTHING!