Flash Of Genius: Patent System Propaganda Made Into A Movie
from the unfortunate dept
But, Kearns turned the whole thing into a crusade against the auto companies, so it makes a good David vs. Goliath movie storyline. And, despite the way Ford appears to be portrayed in the movie as deliberately copying Kearns' work, the company was not found to have willfully infringed on the patents. They were found to have infringed -- but through their own work, not from having directly taken Kearns idea (the movie suggests otherwise). As you may or may not know, most patent infringement is not "willful," meaning the company in question didn't "copy" the idea directly from the inventor or his or her patent, but through simply coming up with the idea themselves independently. And, at the time of Kearns case, the standard for willful infringement was even lower than it is today. Yet, because there's no independent invention defense, the automakers will still found to have infringed. The end result? All of the car companies had to pay many millions to Kearns, effectively paying multiple times over what the wipers actually should have cost, increasing car prices for all of us. That's not David vs. Goliath: it's David making cars more expensive for everyone.
The movie itself may be very entertaining (I'll probably wait for it to come out on video to check it out), but it's unfortunate that it promotes the myth of a "flash of genius" being the most important part of innovation, and that it perpetuates the stereotype of "big companies vs. little inventors." At a time when our patent system needs serious reform, a movie like this only serves to falsely promote the value of patents in the public eye. It's propaganda, wrapped in a nice Hollywood veneer.