July 7, 2009 by David Gillaspie
A traveling man left a patent plate. He came back for it. . .
The early auto industry pulled huge investments at the turn of the century. Money flowed to electric cars, steam power, gunpowder engines and gasoline engines. Selden shared the windfalls with a crack team of lawyers extorting car buyers:
“Don’t buy a lawsuit, buy a Selden Patent car.”
Few men have held major industries in check. Rockefeller and oil? Gates’ and Microsoft? Farnsworth and television?
The Selden Patent era begins to fade when Henry Ford can’t qualify for one. He’s called a car assembler, not a car maker. He goes after the patent and eventually breaks it in court with the argument that it only covers cars with two stroke engines where his have four. Even George Selden was denied when he applied for his own patent to start making cars. He had to buy a company that already had one.
At the end of the day you have to ask if the Selden Patent restricted the auto industry or set a certain standard of quality.
Some say it’s all about plugging numbers into an equation that balances thorough inspections and hefty kickbacks.”