A Critique of Mark Lemley’s “The Myth of the Sole Inventor”
For example, regarding Thomas Edison, Lemley’s primary case illustrating the so-called “myth of the sole inventor,” he alleges that “Sawyer and Man invented and patented the incandescent light bulb” (Lemley 2011, p26) and that “Edison did not invent the light bulb in any meaningful sense” (Lemley 2011, p25). We disprove Lemley’s assertions and present five key facts that Lemley omits: for example, although Lemley cites a Supreme Court case in 1895 as a source for the statement above, he neglects to inform us of the decision reported in that case; it affirmed a lower court’s 1889 decision in favor of Edison and finding the Sawyer & Man patent invalid. Furthermore, the Sawyer and Man lamps were not commercially viable, having only a few hours life, whereas Edison’s invention was the basis for a lamp with a hundred times longer useful lifetime: electric lighting became economic and it was Edison’s invention that unlocked the field after three decades of experimentation by others in incandescent lamps. There was no candidate for an invention simultaneous with Edison’s invention.