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View Diary: Why Patents Can Stifle Innovation (74 comments)

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  •  There is one rather famous case of multiple (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koNko, billmosby

    patents by a couple of holders and tight restrictions leading to innovation: the Edison Diamond Disc Phonograph.

    Edison may have made the first working phonograph, but most of his patents were for cylinder, not disc phonographs. Those patents were held by folks associated with the Victor company. Nearly every detail of disc phonograph design was covered by these patents, and Edison did NOT like paying money to use other people's ideas. He had patented a disc phonograph design back about 1880, and had to work within those parameters to avoid marketing a machine full of patent infringements. The result was brilliant: a phonograph which was much more like an actual musical instrument than any Victrola was. It also meant that his vertically-cut discs, reproduced by a polished diamond stylus could not be played on other maker's machines and vice versa. However, these machines were superior products, and working within very narrow parameters to avoid patent infringement was responsible for the result.

    (By the way, Edison also had a patent problem with wax cylinders: after building the first phonograph he moved on to other things. Tainter and Bell got the patent on improved wax media for reproducing sound in the meantime, and Edison in this case did have to pay to use someone else's patent when he turned to commercial phonograph production in the late 1880's.)

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