The Wright Brothers and Their Flying Machines

Posted: 15 Feb 2012

See all articles by Tom Nicholas

Tom Nicholas

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

David Chen

Harvard Business School

Date Written: May 16, 2011

Abstract

Wilbur (1867-1912) and Orville (1871-1948) Wright were fascinated by the mystery of flight and they built on the ideas of prominent earlier figures such as Octave Chanute (1832-1910) the French-born American who was influential in fostering the free exchange of ideas surrounding aeronautics. Information exchange between practical tinkerers from across the globe led to a process of cumulative innovation unhindered by rivalry operating through the intellectual property rights system. Yet in 1903, the year the Wright Brothers achieved controlled sustained flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they applied for and were subsequently granted a US patent for a "flying-machine" which changed the industry irrevocably. While American manufacturers diverted resources from science and technology to patent wars and legal disputes, European aeronautics advanced more rapidly.

Learning Objective: To explore entrepreneurship in a nascent industry and the role of patents.

Suggested Citation

Nicholas, Tom and Chen, David, The Wright Brothers and Their Flying Machines (May 16, 2011). Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Case No. 811-034. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2005175

Tom Nicholas (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02163
United States

David Chen

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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