[Keeping with our IP theme for January.]
Marketplace's Sabri Ben-Achour has a good segment on the patent battle over the Apple Watch, complete with some very cool historical details. Both Joseph and I are always up for one of these stories, but I have to admit I'm mainly posting this one for the title.
Apple’s patent battle is just one in a long chain going back hundreds of years in the United States.
America had a patent law before it had a Bill of Rights.
“Even while the Constitution was being drafted, there were rival steamboat inventors lobbying members of the Constitutional Convention for patents,” said Christopher Beauchamp, a professor of law at Brooklyn Law School. The biggest patent wars in U.S. history actually happened 150 years ago.
Alexander Graham Bell sued every company that used a telephone without his permission, Beauchamp said. A similar thing happened with waterwheels, sewing machines, barbed wire.
“The inventor of rubber dentures sued every dentist in the country and made basically thousands of people pay to use rubber dentures or face lawsuits,” said Beachamp.
The head of the company was later murdered by a vengeful dentist. In the 20th century, as innovation was controlled by fewer and bigger companies, patent wars were less common, Beauchamp said. But recently they’ve increased again.
“Technology itself has become more complex,” said Rob Merges, author of “American Patent Law” and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley. “There’s more components in a lot of our products.”