There’s an ongoing debate about the role that patents play in promoting creativity and innovation. The Washington Post has a fascinating story commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, and suggests that Wilbur Wright may have paid the ultimate price in patent litigation.
The story is also interesting for its discussion of the history of a prominent patent law firm and the attitudes and approaches that lawyers had to their clients in the early part of the century.
“In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that the Wright Brothers case went on for so long it may have killed Wilbur in the process. A little known fact is that we dragged him to Boston for a deposition, where he became ill. He never recovered.”
Worth thinking about is another quote from the article with the words of Wilbur Wright:
“Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in May 1912. His last letter to Fish complained about how long the case was taking. ‘Unnecessary delays by stipulation of counsel have already destroyed fully three fourths of the value of our patent,’ he wrote on May 4, from Dayton, Ohio. ‘The opportunities of the last two years will never return again. At the present moment almost innumerable competitors are entering the field, and for the first time are producing machines which will really fly.’”