The Wright aircraft patent war dragged on for years, restricting development of new aviation innovations before World War I. The Wrights were relentless in their pursuit of Glenn Curtiss, another early aviation pioneer. The Curtiss company would avoid legal and financial repercussions for years through legal delays, stalling tactics, or outright refusal to pay licensing fees, but few other early aviation tinkerers could amass the resources to fend off a Wright legal assault. By the eve of America’s entry into World War I, the Wrights and Curtiss had a tight patent chokehold on the domestic aviation industry, which would have prevented the construction of a useful American air force if not for government intervention.
In 1917, the two major aircraft manufacturers were forced into a patent pool that would offer modest licensing terms for prospective upstarts. By this point, the Wrights were out of the industry. Wilbur had died years earlier, and Orville had sold his stake to outside investors, leaving Curtiss with an easier path to the dominance previously denied him. The Wrights’ reputation was badly damaged, and competition came to the industry despite their efforts. Years later, on the eve of the Great Depression, Curtiss gained a final measure of victory when his company and the Wrights’ namesake business merged to become Curtiss-Wright Corp. (NYSE:CW), which was at the time the largest aviation company in the United States. This company was also briefly a part of the Dow (from 1928 to 1930), making it the first aviation component in the index’s history.
The article Microsoft Seizes Control of the Computer Industry originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by Alex Planes.
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