The Coordination of Independently-Owned Vacuum Tube Patents in the Early Radio Alleged Patent 'Thicket'
University of Aarhus
Ron D. Katznelson
June 13, 2014
It has been proposed that difficulties in negotiating cross-licenses under multiple, independently-owned and "overlapping" patents may lead entrepreneurs to hold-up or deter development of technology covered by such patents. The literature alleges these features were present in radio development during 1905-1920, with numerous allegations of an impasse in bargaining the necessary patent rights until these were ultimately incorporated in the RCA patent pool. This paper seeks to determine with new precision how entrepreneurs and managers actually managed patent rights in this scenario. Accordingly, we re-examine the legal trajectories and entrepreneurial exploitation of patents on early vacuum tube technology where Fleming's diode patent was alleged to have "overlapped" with De Forest's triode patents. We show, by means of the relevant historical record, patent claims, litigation records and other relevant law, how patent rights were resolved by the courts and by the immunity of suppliers to the government from patent infringement liability. We trace the cross-licensing agreements between the different radio interests and find that licensing was always chosen over hold-up and so enabled robust, state-of-the-art radio development.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 20
Keywords: Patent thicket, Overlapping patents, Anticommons, Holdup, Radio, Vacuum tube, Diode, Triode, Marconi, De Forest, Fleming, RCA.working papers series
Date posted: June 13, 2014
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