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Twentieth Century Inventions
A Forecast

written by "Sutherland, George, 1855-1905"
...ly trivial, but yet really serviceable, improvement on a very widely used type of machine; or a little bit of apparatus which in some small degree facilitates some well known process; or a fashionable toy or puzzle likely to have a good run for a season or two, and then a moderate sale for a few years longer; these are the things to be recommended to an inventor whose main object is to make money. Thus the most qualified experts in patent law and practice do not fail to disclose this fact to those who seek their professional advice in a money-making spirit, as the great majority of inventors do. The full term of fourteen years in the United Kingdom, or seventeen in the United States, may be a ridiculously long period for which to grant a monopoly to the inventor of some ephemeral toy, although absolutely inadequate to secure the just reward for one who labours for many years to perfect an epoch-making invention, and then to introduce it to the public in the face of all the opposition [Pg 8] from vested interests which such inventions almost invariably meet. Thus the fact that a man has made money out of one class of patents may not be any safe guide at all to arriving at a due estimate of his ideas on industrial improvements of greater "pith and moment," but, on the contrary, it is generally exactly the reverse. The law offers an immense premium for such inventions as are readily introduced, and the inventor who has made it his business to take advantage of this fact is usually one of the last men from whom to get a trustworthy opinion on patents of a different class. Of the patents taken out during the latter portion of the nineteenth century, many undoubtedly contain the germs of great ideas, and, nevertheless, have excited comparatively little attention from business men or from the general public. It was so in the latter part of the eighteenth century, and history is only repeating itself when the seeds of twen...

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