Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 19th Apr 2014 09:02 UTC
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The Wright brothers' critical insight was the importance of "lateral stability" - that is, wingtip-to-wingtip stability - to flight. And their great innovation was something they called "wing warping," in which they used a series of pulleys that caused the wingtips on one side of the airplane to go up when the wingtips on the other side were pulled down. That allowed the Wrights' airplane to make banked turns and to correct itself when it flew into a gust of wind.

But when the Wrights applied for a patent, they didn't seek one that just covered wing warping; their patent covered any means to achieve lateral stability. There is no question what the Wrights sought: nothing less than a monopoly on the airplane business - every airplane ever manufactured, they believed, owed them a royalty. As Wilbur Wright, who was both the more domineering and the more inventive of the two brothers, put it in a letter: "It is our view that morally the world owes its almost universal system of lateral control entirely to us. It is also our opinion that legally it owes it to us."

Even though Wrights' competitor Curtiss developed an entirely different system to achieve lateral stability (the ailerons airplanes use to this day), the Wright brothers still believed Curtiss owed them money for it. The legal standoff that ensued in the US airplane industry at the time halted all innovation, so much so that when the WWI broke out, the US government had to step in to force airplane manufacturers to cross-license their patents.

Sadly, by this time, US airplanes weren't good enough for combat.

It seems nobody learns from history.

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Ailerons
by kwan_e on Sat 19th Apr 2014 09:15 UTC
kwan_e
Member since:
2007-02-18

They're called ailerons. Flaps are for providing lift at lower speeds.

Edit:

In making sure I got the term right, I found this:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aileron

"The aileron was first patented by the British scientist and inventor Matthew Piers Watt Boulton in 1868, based on his 1864 paper On Aërial Locomotion. Even though there was extensive prior art in the 19th century for the aileron and its functional analog, wing warping,"

So I'm not sure why the article focus on that era of history when it could go before it quite a few years.

Edited 2014-04-19 09:18 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: Ailerons
by ssokolow on Sat 19th Apr 2014 10:07 UTC in reply to "Ailerons"
ssokolow Member since:
2010-01-21

Probably because U.S. and British patents aren't the same thing.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Ailerons
by hobgoblin on Sat 19th Apr 2014 10:19 UTC in reply to "Ailerons"
hobgoblin Member since:
2005-07-06

Best i recall, at the time there was no cross Atlantic patent agreement.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Ailerons
by westlake on Sat 19th Apr 2014 12:47 UTC in reply to "Ailerons"
westlake Member since:
2010-01-07

"The aileron was first patented by the British scientist and inventor Matthew Piers Watt Boulton in 1868, based on his 1864 paper On Aërial Locomotion."


Boulton was an English eccentric, a recluse who retreated entirely into the life of the landed gentry. His scientific papers and patents lay utterly forgotten, dead and buried, until 1911-1916 and influenced no one.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Piers_Watt_Boulton

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Ailerons
by shotsman on Sat 19th Apr 2014 18:41 UTC in reply to "RE: Ailerons"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

Matthew Boulton has some interesting ancestors.

James Watt
Matthew Boulton

They patented the Steam Engine with a compbined condenser. That meant that the Boulton-Watt company had a monopoly on all steam engine manufacture.

They kepy their monopoly until someone started building steam engines with a separate condenser thus breaking the patent.

IMHO the Wright Brothers were just following the fine example of Boulton & Watt.

Reply Score: 4

Prior art
by kwan_e on Sat 19th Apr 2014 10:52 UTC
kwan_e
Member since:
2007-02-18

I don't think the concept of prior art needed cross Atlantic patent agreements or any similarity between US and British patents.*

Enforcing patents internationally at the time is another question. The question is about granting the patent in the first place which I'm sure there is no requirement that prior art can only be considered from the country of application.

Otherwise you'd have the (even more) absurd situation where someone could have patented the wheel because it was invented in Ancient Sumeria but no prior art in the US.

* Although the US system is a Common Law system which allows some crossover in legal considerations.

Edited 2014-04-19 10:56 UTC

Reply Score: 4

RE: Prior art
by unclefester on Tue 22nd Apr 2014 02:13 UTC in reply to "Prior art"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

The US didn't recognise foreign IP until the 1970s. US corporations were even free to patent technology that had already been patented in other countries.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Prior art
by kwan_e on Tue 22nd Apr 2014 03:51 UTC in reply to "RE: Prior art"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

The US didn't recognise foreign IP until the 1970s.


Are you talking about the international patent agreement that I was addressing from the other two comments? Because I'm still talking about prior art, which is different from foreign IP. They may not recognize foreign patents, but prior art exists whether it's patented or not.

If the US before the 1970s actually did not consider foreign PRIOR ART, not just foreign patents, then they missed a golden opportunity to patent really obvious stuff that didn't originate in the US.

Reply Score: 3

RE[3]: Prior art
by unclefester on Tue 22nd Apr 2014 08:01 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Prior art"
unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

If the US before the 1970s actually did not consider foreign PRIOR ART, not just foreign patents, then they missed a golden opportunity to patent really obvious stuff that didn't originate in the US.


Obvious stuff was patented. DDT was patented by Bayer in 1947 despite being discovered in 1877.

Reply Score: 2

RE[4]: Prior art
by kwan_e on Tue 22nd Apr 2014 11:13 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Prior art"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Obvious stuff was patented. DDT was patented by Bayer in 1947 despite being discovered in 1877.


There's a difference between DDT being known about, and the actual formula/fabrication method of DDT being known.

http://archive.org/stream/us_patent_2600668/us_patent_2600668_djvu....

The patent is about a specific way of making DDT. The question is is that the same method used by the inventor?

Reply Score: 3

RE[4]: Prior art
by Alfman on Tue 22nd Apr 2014 14:18 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Prior art"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

unclefester,

Obvious stuff was patented. DDT was patented by Bayer in 1947 despite being discovered in 1877.


In theory the patent system is supposed to protect inventions (ie methods) instead of discoveries. Although frequently I find this distinction blurry. For any invention, we could reasonably say that we "discovered" methods that work. Conversely for any discovery could say we could invent methods of using discoveries to solve problems. Making a discovery patentable is largely a matter of how we frame it.

To further support the notion that discovery & invention are somewhat synonymous, consider that many inventions were admittedly "discovered" accidentally by their inventors:

Modern Rubber
http://www.essortment.com/history-rubber-21100.html

Film/Photography
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daguerreotype#Invention

XRays
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilhelm_R%C3%B6ntgen

Penicillin
http://www.wisegeek.org/how-was-penicillin-discovered-and-developed...

...


With respect to DDT, I agree with kwan_e it looks like the patent was for a new method of producing DDT. Even if DDT had been patented earlier around the time of it's discovery, having a new method to produce it would still qualify as something patentable.

Reply Score: 3

Comment by steogede2
by steogede2 on Sat 19th Apr 2014 13:22 UTC
steogede2
Member since:
2007-08-17

Presumably bird-kind had prior art on this?

Reply Score: 5

powerful using state
by project_2501 on Sat 19th Apr 2014 15:19 UTC
project_2501
Member since:
2006-03-20

I agree that the patent system is absurd and actually counter productive.

It is just one of many areas of life where those who have advantage and power will naturally use whatever means that can (mostly legal) to maintain their position.

The only balancing mechanism to correct this behaviour of powerful corporations or individuals, and indeed families, is democracy. The redressing of power back to the people. In some countries it was a hard fought right. Bloody in some.

So.... Though it seems like these corporations have all the funds, lawyers, experts, patience, lobbyists, sponsored politicians.... Ultimately they can do no more than is allowed by an alert citizenry.

So the only real means to change this, or other scandals, is to raise awareness, get angry, and vote. That vote is damn powerful. The biggest fear of these corporations is people waking up and caring. Because they can't fight changes introduced by democratic mandate.

Reply Score: 4

RE: powerful using state
by windowshasyou on Sat 19th Apr 2014 16:56 UTC in reply to "powerful using state"
windowshasyou Member since:
2011-05-14

The US government has told me that my vote doesn't matter. Besides, even if a potential bill doesn't go through in it's current form, corps will continually sponsor it's redraft and keep on submitting it till they do eventually get what they want signed into law. It's how it works in the current system. Look at this SOPA and PIPA stuff, for example, that everyone seems to have forgotten about.

Edited because I forgot to include the link to SOPA's current incarnation.
http://www.thenewamerican.com/economy/item/17861-sopa-dead-in-congr...

Edited 2014-04-19 16:58 UTC

Reply Score: 6

RE: powerful using state
by christian on Sat 19th Apr 2014 18:13 UTC in reply to "powerful using state"
christian Member since:
2005-07-06

I agree that the patent system is absurd and actually counter productive.

It is just one of many areas of life where those who have advantage and power will naturally use whatever means that can (mostly legal) to maintain their position.

The only balancing mechanism to correct this behaviour of powerful corporations or individuals, and indeed families, is democracy. The redressing of power back to the people. In some countries it was a hard fought right. Bloody in some.

So.... Though it seems like these corporations have all the funds, lawyers, experts, patience, lobbyists, sponsored politicians.... Ultimately they can do no more than is allowed by an alert citizenry.

So the only real means to change this, or other scandals, is to raise awareness, get angry, and vote. That vote is damn powerful. The biggest fear of these corporations is people waking up and caring. Because they can't fight changes introduced by democratic mandate.


All very reasonable. The balancing works really well. </sarcasm>

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

http://www.princeton.edu/~mgilens/Gilens%20homepage%20mater...

Reply Score: 4

RE: powerful using state
by WorknMan on Sat 19th Apr 2014 18:22 UTC in reply to "powerful using state"
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

The only balancing mechanism to correct this behaviour of powerful corporations or individuals, and indeed families, is democracy.


LMAO!

Rambo: Are you bringin' weapons? Then you ain't changin' nothin'.

Reply Score: 6

Wright at the Smithsonian Museum
by jazman777 on Sat 19th Apr 2014 18:13 UTC
jazman777
Member since:
2013-02-27

The Wright estate made a deal with the Smithsonian (the US's National Air and Space Museum): you can display a Wright flyer, and you don't say anything about any other aviation pioneers, such as Alberto Santos-Dumont.

If you go there, you'd think the Wright brothers were the alpha and the omega of early flight.

Reply Score: 6

westlake Member since:
2010-01-07

The Wright estate made a deal with the Smithsonian (the US's National Air and Space Museum): you can display a Wright flyer, and you don't say anything about any other aviation pioneers.


The deal was that the Smithsonian would get to display the 1903 Kitty Hawk Wright Flyer in exchange for being honest about the changes Glenn Curtiss made to the abortive Langley Aerodrome to get it into the air.

With Smithsonian approval, Glenn Curtiss extensively modified the Aerodrome and made a few short flights in it in 1914, as part of an unsuccessful attempt to bypass the Wright Brothers' patent on aircraft and to vindicate Langley. Based on these flights, the Smithsonian displayed the Aerodrome in its museum as the first heavier-than-air manned, powered aircraft "capable of flight." The dispute finally ended in 1942 when the Smithsonian published details of the Curtiss modifications to the Aerodrome and recanted its claims for the aircraft.


The Wrights' path to Kitty Hawk is well documented at every step along the way.

You cannot build an aircraft without understanding the problems of structural integrity, lift and dynamic control in three dimensions. It takes years of work to get that far and it leaves traces.

http://www.grc.nasa.gov/WWW/Wright/airplane/tunnel.html

Reply Score: 6

jazman777 Member since:
2013-02-27

OK, more refined; the deal really is about establishing the Wright brothers as first in flight, bar none:

http://historybycontract.org/?cat=4

Reply Score: 3

westlake Member since:
2010-01-07

OK, more refined; the deal really is about establishing the Wright brothers as first in flight, bar none


For a devastating critique of the claims made for Gustave Whitehead read on:

http://www.wright-brothers.org/History_Wing/History_of_the_Airplane...

Here is a sampling of how Popular Aviation naively re-told these tall tales in 1935.

1899 — "...in the Oakland suburb of Pittsburgh in the Spring of 1899, [a]…steam-driven model had carried him and his assistant a distance of almost a mile. Firemen…lent their assistance that time to start the machine, while the assistant fed charcoal to the flame which heated water in the ordinary kitchen boiler which they were using. …[A]s they went onward and upward, steered by Gustave Whitehead at the controls in the front, they exceeded the distance originally planned and found themselves headed for a three-story brick house. Afraid to attempt to swerve, there was but one hope, namely that they might clear the top of the house. But they failed. Down fell the machine, all but demolished, while the agonized fireman in the back writhed with the pain of a scalded leg."

Reply Score: 3

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

westlake,

For a devastating critique of the claims made for Gustave Whitehead read on:

http://www.wright-brothers.org/History_Wing/History_of_the_Airplane.....


I find this little controversy very interesting!

Honestly though, the accounts at that link sound just as biased, at times even to the point of FUD. I'll readily admit the obvious: I don't know what happened. There's no way for anyone alive today to know it directly. All we have as evidence is what's been reported (poorly) in the periodicals of the time. It doesn't help that reporters at the time apparently sensationalized the news. Still, it doesn't strictly mean the underlying events are completely untrue as insinuated here. Unfortunately documented records may not be rigorous enough to offer the undeniable proof we want/need.

Given the determination of the Wright Brothers, and their representatives actively involved in discrediting others, and even negotiating factual claims with the Smithsonian, I would guess that if any evidence of earlier flights did exist (ie unpublished photos), they would have been the ones to find it.


This gets me thinking, could such a thing happen again today with things like software? Many of us as indy devs don't protect ourselves with regards to historical record in a provable way. I suspect open source projects hosted on a community repo like github, will have sufficient evidence. But without some kind of external attestation, just about all digital records tend to be trivial to fake, and rely 100% on the integrity of those maintaining the data.


In terms of the Wright Brother's patent suit against Glenn Curtis, I would not think it should have legally mattered whether the "Great Aerodrome" actually flew or not. It should still be allowed as prior art. In any case I find it very interesting to see the patent system had these kinds of issues earlier on even for such a small industry.

Reply Score: 3

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

Most countries, apart from the USA, have a "first to patent" process. This means there is no need whatsoever to prove prior art or document discoveries. Most countries also have a far stricter definition of "invention" than the USA.

Reply Score: 3

kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

Most countries, apart from the USA, have a "first to patent" process. This means there is no need whatsoever to prove prior art or document discoveries. Most countries also have a far stricter definition of "invention" than the USA.


That stricter definition of "invention" does include prior art. Most definitions include the concepts of novel, non-obvious, and useful. The novel aspect of the definition is about prior art, and it doesn't matter whether it's first to file or not.

Reply Score: 3

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

unclefester,

Most countries, apart from the USA, have a "first to patent" process.


Many might not realize that the policy you are referring to has been changed:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_to_file_and_first_to_invent
The first-to-file system is used in all countries, including the United States, which switched to a first-inventor-to-file (FITF) system on March 16, 2013 after the enactment of the America Invents Act.



This means there is no need whatsoever to prove prior art or document discoveries. Most countries also have a far stricter definition of "invention" than the USA.


Well keep in mind that prior art still plays a vital role in patent-ability. I'm not aware of any countries that eliminate the role of prior art in establishing whether a patent is novel and therefor valid. Consequently it is still safer to have proof in the event that someone else brings a patent case against you. Conceivably your work might be found to infringe a later patent if not for your ability to prove it preexisted the patent. The same would apply to third party prior art, therefor I'd assert that rigorous documentation still is important.

Edit: Didn't read kwan_e's post when I wrote this, so mine is kind of redundant.

Edited 2014-04-22 04:39 UTC

Reply Score: 3

And the Wright Wrothers are the heros...
by reduz on Sat 19th Apr 2014 18:26 UTC
reduz
Member since:
2006-02-25

Although there is no doubt Santos Dumont aircraft's first flight occurred a tiny bit later than the Wright's, and even though his aircraft models were much more technically advanced (they could take-off by themselves, and the guy used them reliably for his own transportation), the guy's attitude was completely the opposite.

From Wikipedia: "Santos-Dumont was so enthusiastic about aviation that he made the drawings of the Demoiselle available free of charge, thinking that aviation would lead to a new prosperous era for mankind.".

The Demoiselle, by the way, was the first mass-produced aircraft. I guess he's up in the same group of under-recognized inventors with poor Tesla.

Edited 2014-04-19 18:29 UTC

Reply Score: 8

Treza Member since:
2006-01-11

Sadly, by this time, US airplanes weren't good enough for combat.


Santos Dumont was very depressed that airplanes would be used for war, rather sooner than later, during WW1.

There are many similarities between the early days of aviation and other fast emerging techologies like mobile phones or computers.
This is also an endless source of nationalism, patents, government involvement, who-invented-what, who was influenced and what was independent discoveries...

Reply Score: 5

And thus...
by fretinator on Mon 21st Apr 2014 17:15 UTC
fretinator
Member since:
2005-07-06

And thus the saying, "Two wrights don't make a wrong."

Reply Score: 3