Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Lessons From History

There are a few lessons to be learned from this narrative.

On November 5, 1895, Rochester attorney George Selden wins U.S. Patent No. 549,160 for an "improved road engine" powered by a "liquid-hydrocarbon engine of the compression type." With that, as far as the government was concerned, George Selden had invented the car--though he had never built a single one.

Selden's design was fairly vague, and was actually based on a two-cylinder internal-combustion engine that someone else had invented: Selden had simply copied the one he'd seen on display at the 1872 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition.

Lesson One:  There are liars and thieves in every profession.  Trust, but verify.

...Soon, some automakers realized that the Selden patent didn't have to be a threat to their business. On the contrary, it could be quite profitable and limit competition in a highly competitive industry. About 30 car companies, including Winton, got together with Selden and the EVC to form the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM). The ALAM sued anyone who built a gas-powered car without Selden's permission--in other words, anyone who had not paid to join the Selden cartel. It also drummed up business for its own members by threatening to sue anyone who bought a car from an unlicensed company....

Lesson Two:  "License agreements" are often merely restraint-of-trade with liberally applied legal lipstick.

...But Selden's group, composed mostly of Eastern carmakers that built ritzy cars for rich buyers, made a mistake: It excluded the Midwestern manufacturers who built lower-priced cars for ordinary people. In particular, it excluded Henry Ford. On October 22, 1903, the ALAM sued Ford for patent infringement, but the case took until 1909, seven months after the Model T was introduced, to go to trial. Most Americans, delighted to have the opportunity to buy an affordable car, were on Ford's side, but the judge was not: The court ruled that any gas-powered vehicle unlicensed by the ALAM violated the Selden patent and was illegal....

Lesson Three:  Judges are often wrong.

...But on January 11, 1911, the appeals court ruled in Ford's favor: the Selden patent, it said, only applied to replicas of the exact engine that Selden had seen in 1872....

Lesson Four:  Pigs get slaughtered because they make mistakes.

Lesson Five:  Selden should have purchased more Congressmen and a President so they would create a Motor Vehicle Regulatory Agency.  He'd still be a crook, but a very fat one.  And all those Congresscritters could have invested in his company through their "blind" trusts and they'd be fat, too.


Anonymous said...

As Rev. Huckabee likes to say, "Let's be clear: None of these guys made me. This great nation made me. So vote for me."

And I will set you free.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, history challenged Dad29.

“There are liars and thieves in every profession. Trust, but verify.”

George Selden was NOT a liar nor a thief. George Brayton built a mammoth internal combustion engine, which eventually was used to propel a submarine. This invention inspired George B. Selden to develop his invention, which eventually was used in an automobile. Both took the necessary steps to patent their invention. During the late 1800’s there were inventors in the United States and in Europe who were developing their own internal combustion engines for a variety of purposes.

“"License agreements" are often merely restraint-of-trade with liberally applied legal lipstick.”

Actually, this arrangement by the standards of the day was completely legal. Recall that in the late 1890’s that federal business were non-existent or lax. Perhaps you heard of the term “laissez-faire”. Ford and his cohorts also developed a similar arrangement in response. No surprise.

“Lesson Three: Judges are often wrong.”

The reason why Ford won the patent case was because he successfully argued that the engine used in automobiles was NOT based on George Brayton’s engine--the one that Selden improved upon--but an engined developed by Nikolaus Otto. The court thus found that Selden’s patent was not infringed.

Dad29 said...

It's really good to have a genius like you straighten things out, eh?

1) According to the linked article, Selden near-Xeroxed Brayton's design and patented it. Scale of application is irrelevant, as you might not know. It remains a fact that there are liars and thieves in every profession.

2) Restraint-of-trade, whether legal or not, is restraint-of-trade. Killing babies is also "legal"; we are not impressed by that law, either.

3) The linked article does not share your opinion of the Otto/Selden/Brayton/Ford conclusion. And no one actually cares.

Anonymous said...

"Selden near-Xeroxed Brayton's design and patented it."

Reputable historians acknowledge that during this time frame similar engines were being produced in the United States and Europe, each possessing unique design elements and purposes. They all made modifications from a single idea. Technology develops through this evolutionary process. Again, Selden filed the first patent for a gasoline-powered automobile; this action was well within his liberty and well within the permitted laws at the time. Ain’t capitalism grand?

“Scale of application is irrelevant, as you might not know.”

According to who...YOU? Ha, ha, ha. You have as much credibility as Obozo. Cut from the same cloth.

“Restraint-of-trade, whether legal or not, is restraint-of-trade.”

Depends on how one defines “restraint-of-trade”. Selden and Ford each had their “crew”. Both sides were earning profits. Both sought to generate share of the marketplace using the available means deemed appropriate for the time period. Their methods, some of which are considered unscrupulous now, were the norm, and in part led to tremendous growth in our economy in the late 1800‘s. Historical context matters, as you might not know.

“The linked article does not share your opinion of the Otto/Selden/Brayton/Ford conclusion.”

Which does not mean that the opinion from the linked article is the end-all, be-all. [Golf clap]
Try conducting further investigations on the matter and take into consideration all of the evidence before scribing.

“And no one actually cares.”

If no one “cares”, then you wouldn’t have responded.