Tuesday, May 22, 2007

How the autombile was patented, and royalties were collected from anyone who made them

Inspired by the mammoth internal combustion engine invented by George Brayton displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, George Selden began working on a smaller lighter version, succeeding by 1878, some eight years before the public introduction of the Benz Patent Motorwagen in Europe.

He filed for a patent on May 8, 1879. His application included not only the engine but its use in a 4 wheeled car. He then filed a series of amendments to his application which stretched out the legal process resulting in a delay of 16 years before the patent US patent 549160 was granted on November 5, 1895.

Shortly thereafter the fledgling American auto industry began its first efforts and George Selden, despite never having gone into production with a working model of an automobile, had a credible claim to have patented an automobile in 1895.

In 1899 he sold his patent rights to William C. Whitney, Whitney and Selden then worked together to collect royalties from other budding automobile manufacturers. He was initially successful, negotiating a 0.75% royalty on all cars sold by the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers, the ALAM. He began his own car company in Rochester under the name, Selden Motor Vehicle Company.

However, Henry Ford, owner of the Ford Motor Company, founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1903, and four other car makers resolved to contest the patent infringement suit filed by Selden. The legal fight lasted eight years, generating a case record of 14,000 pages.

The case was heavily publicized in the newspapers of the day, and ended in a victory for Selden. In his decision, the judge wrote that the patent covered any automobile propelled by an engine powered by gasoline vapor. Posting a bond of $350,000, Ford appealed, and on January 10, 1911 won his case based on an argument that the engine used in automobiles was not based on George Brayton's engine, the Brayton engine which Selden had improved, but on the Otto engine.

The above is mostly from Wikipedia, but for a very indepth and journalist written account with quotes from the people involved gathered from the newspapers of the day, http://www.s363.com/selden/case.html

This stunning defeat, with only 1 year left to run on the patent, destroyed Selden's income stream. He focused production of his car company on trucks, renaming his company the Selden Truck Sales Corporation. It survived in that form until 1930 when it was purchased by the Bethlehem Truck Company. Selden suffered a stroke in late 1921 and died at 75 on January 17, 1922. He was buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester. It is estimated he received several hundred thousand dollars in royalties.

It was also much more simply put on http://patentpending.blogs.com/patent_pending_blog/2004/10/the_first_autom.html 

The first patent on an internal combustion on a 4 wheel vehicle was filed in 1879, and issued in 1897. George Selden was a civil war veteran, with skills and interests in engineering and law. After the Civil War, he entered engineering school, but had to drop out. He later took up law, and filed his patent. He knew that he would not be manufacturing cars before the term of the patent expired, so he did all he could to delay its issuance. It finally issued in 1897, at a time that other car makers were in production.

 He licensed his patent, and the company that owned the rights to it licensed it to the other car makers. Selden also began making cars, the Selden Motor Car.

 Henry Ford refused to pay the license fee on the Selden Patent, and lost an infringement lawsuit. He appealed the decision, and won. The Selden patent was accused of not being "enabling". To determine if the patent enabled one skilled in the art to build it, a mechanic used the Selden patent as the blueprint to build a car, the first Selden car ever built. It ran, barely, but Selden's patent was determined to cover only the three cylinder, two stroke engine that it disclosed. Ford and all the other car makers used a four stroke engine, and so were not infringing. When the lawsuit was over, the Selden patent only had one year to go before it expired anyway.

 Over the years, licensing the Selden patent had been a real money maker for Selden. Selden later made automobiles, then trucks, and his company lasted as the Selden Truck Sales Company into the 1930s. Ford also had another car built from a patent, a gasoline car patented by Lenior in 1860, a Belgian. Ford's goal was to show that Selden's patent was invalid, because a car had been patented earlier. Both Lenoir and Selden were only the first gasoline powered cars, because earlier steam cars had been built by Evans in the U.S. in 1805 , Gurney in the U.K. in 1829, Bollee in France in 1875 and Cugnot in France in 1768. The Duryea Brothers car was the first production car, first designed in 1893,