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Future Hype by Bob Seidensticker

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14 What’s Mine Is Mine

THE COMMISSIONER OF THE U.S. PATENT OFFICE has been widely quoted as saying in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” How could he have said this at a time when the telegraph and railroad were maturing, the telephone and electric industries were rapidly growing, and the skyscraper and automobile were just beginning? The answer is that he didn’t make the statement. The closest any patent commissioner seems to have come to this is speculation in 1843 that we might at some point reach an end of innovation—but only because of the furious rate of innovation at that time.

Intellectual property protection, such as patents for inventions and copyrights for books, music, and other creative products, has ...

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