Friday, October 06, 2006

Harry Toulmin, patent attorney for Wright Brothers, gets Ohio statue

In the unending story of the Wright Brothers, there will be a statue of Harry Toulmin in Ohio.

A story on WWAY has the following text:

Toulmin helped the Wright brothers apply for five patents, including the flying machine's patent. That patent withstood more than 20 years of fierce legal battles over intellectual property rights.

The basic Wright patent concerned three dimensional control of flight. It was filed well before the first powered flight in December 1903. The initial application was not written by Toulmin. It did not withstand 20 years of fierce legal battles. After the patent pool was set up as a result of World War I, there were no legal battles.

The Akron Beacon-Journal noted:

Toulmin was selected because 2006 marks the 100-year anniversary of the flying machine's patent. Officials in Springfield, Ohio, about 25 miles northeast of Dayton, hope to erect statues of the Wrights alongside Toulmin's.

IPBiz observes that, although the Wright Brothers won their patent litigations, they didn't win in the marketplace, in large part because of the patent pool. After World War I, the litigations could have started again, but they didn't. The patent system did not serve the Wright Brothers well.

Another story of an inventor who didn't do well in the patent system is that of Andreas Pavel (Walkman). See LARRY ROHTER in the New York Times; Section A, Page 4, Column 4, 17 Dec. 2005.

Part of the Times text which should be noted by those talking about small inventors:

At one point, Mr. Pavel said, he owed his lawyer hundreds of thousands of dollars and was being followed by private detectives and countersued by Sony. "They had frozen all my assets, I couldn't use checks or credit cards," and the outlook for him was grim.

Of relevance to the Wright Brothers, who were consumed by their patent litigation, the Times wrote of Pavel:

Some of his friends have suggested he might have a case against
the manufacturers of MP3 players, reasoning that those devices are a direct
descendant of the Walkman. Mr. Pavel said that while he saw a kinship,
he was not eager to take on another long legal battle.

"I have known other inventors in similar predicaments and most of
them become that story, which is the most tragic, sad and melancholic thing
that can happen," he said. "Somebody becomes a lawsuit, he loses all interest
in other things and deals only with the lawsuit. Nobody ever said I was
obsessed. I kept my other interests alive, in philosophy and music and literature."

"I didn't have time to pursue them, but now I have reconquered my
time," he continued. "So, no, I'm not interested anymore in patents or legal
fights or anything like that."


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