Tag Archives: non-fiction

Bloody AC-DC patent war depicted in new novel by Oscar winner

If you thought the 19th Century was a kinder, gentler time for the people responsible for break-through inventions, you would be mistaken – it was not much better than today. 

The bitter battle for the electricity standard between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse was nastier than a bar room brawl. It has all the drama of a Hollywood movie, which, in fact, it is currently being made into.

Last Days of Night is a New York Times best-selling historical novel written by the Oscar-winning writer of “The Imitation Game.” It tells the true story of the battle between direct and alternating current for the electricity standard, one that involved fundamental patents, lawyers (Paul Cravath, 18 months out of Columbia Law School), lawsuits (312 of them), bankers (J.P. Morgan), a phobic inventor (Nikola Tesla), the press, and electrocutions of animals and a human.

Keen Observer

Last Days of Night is not classic literature. Its short chapters give it the feel of a pot-boiler. However, the book’s is timely for an ability to reveal character – good and bad – in the face of adversity and is a keen observer of the inventive process.

It is no surprise that its author, Graham Moore, won an Oscar for his adaptation of The Imitation Game, the story of British mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazi’s enigma code, but who was a victim of his time.

Moore is currently adapting Last Days into a major motion picture starring Eddie Redmayne, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of the young Steven Hawking in The Theory of Everything. The Last Days movie, with an all-star team in control, has a good shot at achieving what few books and films have: a realistic portrait of the relationship between inventions and the people and systems that drive them.

Deeper Dive

IAM subscribers go here for the May issue, which contains “Book Sheds New Light on an Epic Patent Battle,” a deeper dive into this strangely inspiring, mostly factual, novel that reminds us that the premium on new ideas is as tied to people as it is to capital and genius.

Much to his credit, Graham Moore’s provides a lengthy note from the author, detailing what he condensed in the novel and why. His historical timeline (mrgrahammoore.com) helps readers to separate fact from fiction, for a fuller appreciation of the people and events that helped to secure a bittersweet victory for AC.

To purchase Last Days of Night, go here.

Image source: mrgrahammoore.com

“Triumph” book reexamines the case that launched 10,000 patent suits

Polaroid v. Kodak, concluded in 1991 after 15 years, was the first “billion dollar” patent damages award ($909 million).  Until this year, it was the largest satisfied judgment in a patent case awarded by a U.S. court. In current value the award would be almost $2 billion.

You could say that it was the case that launched 10,000 patent suits, many by non-practicing entities.

51YbbsBE48L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Polaroid dispute involved patents covering instant photography, which at the time was among the most valuable technologies. But as one observer pointed out, by the end of the long dispute, the Polaroid-Kodak battle was “little more than two aging giants dueling on the decks of the Titanic.” Digital photography would soon eclipse instant photography, and both litigants were on the road to insolvency.

My review of A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War, by Ronald K. Fierstein, a former Fish & Neave attorney, describes it as a timely book, deftly written and useful to anyone affected by IP rights or who invests in technology.

Triumph is about an infamous case, a bold inventor and two innovative companies that lost their mojo at the apex of their popularity.

My review appears in IP Watchdog. Please click here to read it.

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Image source: amazon.com


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