Patent Trolling


July 7, 2009 by David Gillaspie



A traveling man left a patent plate.  He came back for it. . .

“George Selden is a sneaky lawyer who found a way to file a patent covering every car made in America.  He got it based on a weak model he updates when he renews the patent.

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.

A hundred years later we ask the same question.  How safe do we need to be?  Who is responsible for our safety?  Can the nanny-culture go too far?

Some say it’s all about plugging numbers into an equation that balances thorough inspections and hefty kickbacks.” 

Okay then.


4 thoughts on “Patent Trolling

  1. […] Automobiles and George Selden. […]

  2. […] A history book will tell you he invented the automobile assembly line, but that’s not the whole story.  He studied time management and movement to decide how long it takes to assemble car pieces, and […]

  3. Ray Crim says:

    We never needed Ralph Mader’s advice.
    And considering his sole connection to the auto industry consisted of rideing in taxis ans sueing them he had no leg to stand on.
    But, the jerks in Washington never asked men like Smokey Yunik, the hunt Bros. or Andy Granatelli for any advice.
    In “McCahill sorts out the safety experts” M.I. top automotive writer related an incident at a cocktail party.
    He button hole one of the Washington safety Gurus and asked him.
    “What advice would you give a drive caught in a highspeed skid?”
    The guru thought, then answered, “He was obviously driving too fast.”
    So, Uncle Tom asked him the question again.
    He then admitted he didn’t know what to tell him.
    And added rather proudly the “He never drove over 45mph himself.”
    And this was one of the men telling Detroit how to biuld safer cars.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Thanks for leaving a repy Ray. I liked the high speed skid question. It’s similar to the motorcycle question of what to do in skid. Guess wrong and you’re high sided with a head dive into the pavement.

      Have you read Andy Granatelli’s book “They Call Me Mr. 500?” He tells about driving cross country before the freeways. Check it out.


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