Friday, June 10, 2011

Lemley on the myth of the solo inventor

Lemley on solo inventors, in The Myth of the Sole Inventor

See comment at writtendescription.

And recall the text by Michael H. Davis in 56 S.C. L. Rev. 337 (2004):

The author later states:

In the heroic treatment, historical change is shown to have been generated by the genius of individuals, conveniently labelled "inventors'. In such a treatment, Edison invented the electric light, Bell the telephone, Gutenberg the printing press, Watt the steam engine, and so on. But no individual is responsible for producing an invention ex nihilo. The elevation of the single inventor to the position of sole creator at best exaggerates his influence over events ... . n34

[p. 347] Stressing his point one final time, Burke reminds his readers that "no inventor works alone. The myth of the lonely genius, filled with vision and driven to exhaustion by his dream, may have been deliberately fostered by Edison, but even he did not invent the light bulb without help from his colleagues and predecessors." n35

with the cited document being James Burke, Connections 13 (1978).


from Gregory N. Mandel, 44 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 283 (2010):

The romantic myths of the solitary author in her garret or solitary inventor in his garage are socially and culturally constructed and have been debunked by various scholars. n259 The historic examples of iconic inventors used earlier (Edison, Bell, and Salk), for example, did not unitarily achieve their inventions; their work was only accomplished within a framework of many prior advances and much concurrent collaboration. n260 Edison, for example, had a huge laboratory full of engineers conducting research on the light bulb. n261 He not only relied on the work of many before him, but [p. 342] may even have taken his idea from Joseph Swan, a contemporary British inventor who prevailed over Edison in a patent dispute in England. n262

Note 259 is Jaszi, supra note 156, at 455-63; Sawyer, supra note 212, at 479-81.

Note 212 is Simonton, supra note 149, at 5-6; R. Keith Sawyer, Creativity, Innovation, and Obviousness, 12 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 461, 462 (2008). .

Note 156 is James D. A. Boyle, The Search for an Author: Shakespeare and the Framers, 37 Am. U. L. Rev. 625, 633 (1988) (stating that "romantic conception of authorship" is "200 year-old stereotype" rather than "timeless truth about Art"); Peter Jaszi, Towards a Theory of Copyright: The Metamorphoses of "Authorship," 1991 Duke L.J. 455, 496 (1991); Kwall, supra note 64, at 19-20.


** Of the text --Edison merely "found a bamboo fiber that worked better as a filament in the light bulb developed by Sawyer and Mann, --

Although the Supreme Court did not address the issue, there were allegations by Edison at trial that Sawyer/Man had amended their application to conform to Edison's work: "no such invention
was set forth in the original application, but was introduced for the first time more than four years after it was filed, and after the same material had been used by Edison, and claimed by
him in an application for a patent." The trial court agreed, saying "after Edison's inventions on this subject had been published to the world, there was an entire change of base on the part of Sawyer and Man, and that the application was amended to give it an entirely different direction and purpose from what it had in its original form ...."


**Of simultaneous inventorship, Carlson's xerography is anything but a simultaneous invention. Carlson was in fact told by the likes of Kodak and IBM that the invention would not work and had no value. The invention by the Wrights of three-dimensional control was only after the repeated failure of others as to flight. The competitors didn't understand the problem, much less the solution. Of the patent system, the Wrights were clearly incentivized by the availability of a patent system. Langley got government money, but his plane landed in the Potomac. A resurrected version, with significant modifications, was used by Curtiss in an attempt to defeat the patent of the Wrights.

**Of lack of understanding by inventors, Lemley repeats the discredited "transistor as hearing aid" urban legend. But see 8 JMRIPL 80 (2008).


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