Friday, February 11, 2005

BICYCLES AND PATENTS - ALL YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW: In this interesting article, Bob Mionske chronicles the business and legal history of bicycles through the early 20th century.

Starting in 1879, the infant bicycle industry was almost destroyed by a decade of protracted patent litigation. Col. Albert Pope, the great bicycle magnate, was the driving force behind most of these legal skirmishes. Many observers believed that the colonel's ultimate aim was to monopolize the bicycle industry. Pope and his lieutenants loudly dissented, arguing that their actions brought stability and prosperity to what otherwise would have been commercial anarchy. While he did rationalize much of the technology that went into the bicycle, there is no doubt that Pope's core intent was self-interest and his actions frequently stretched ethical and legal boundaries, even by the no-holds-barred business standards of the gilded age. Pope's men came very close to gaining a perpetual monopoly over the American bicycle industry, and were defeated only by the United States Supreme Court and a handful of adversaries who vowed to fight him to the finish.

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