Did patents help or hurt Henry Ford's efforts to create an entirely new industry? In his own words:
"George B. Selden, a patent attorney, filed an application as far back as 1879 for a patent the object of which was stated to be 'The production of a safe, simple, and cheap road locomotive' . . . . [E]verybody was familiar with self-propelled vehicles, and most of the men, including myself, who had been for years working on motor propulsion, were surprised to learn that what we had made practicable was covered by an application of years before, although the applicant had kept his idea merely as an idea. He had done nothing to put it into practice.
. . .
"The powerful combination of manufacturers who called themselves the "licensed manufacturers" because they operated under licenses from the patentee, brought suit against us as soon as we began to be a factor in motor production. The suit dragged on. It was intended to scare us out of business. . . . The idea was spread that if the suit finally went against me, every man who owned a Ford car would be prosecuted. Some of my more enthusiastic opponents, I understand, gave it out privately that there would be criminal as well as civil suits and that a man buying a Ford car might as well be buying a ticket to jail."
. . .
We [nevertheless] sold more than eighteen thousand cars—nearly double the output of the previous year . . . .
As a matter of fact, probably nothing so well advertised the Ford car and the Ford Motor Company as did this suit. It appeared that we were the under dog and we had the public's sympathy. The association had seventy million dollars—we at the beginning had not half that number of thousands. I never had a doubt as to the outcome, but nevertheless it was a sword hanging over our heads that we could as well do without. Prosecuting that suit was probably one of the most shortsighted acts that any group of American business men has ever combined to commit. . . . I regard it as most fortunate for the automobile makers of the country that we eventually won, and the association ceased to be a serious factor in the business. . . ."
From Henry Ford, My Life and Work pp. 61-63 (Garden City Publishing, Garden City, NY 1922) availabe at https://books.google.com/books?id=4K82efXzn10C