What Smartphone Makers Can Learn From the Sewing Machine Patent War

The smartphone market is highly lucrative, has many competing players, and involves countless patents. In other words, it’s a recipe for lawsuits. In the last month alone, Microsoft lobbed a suit at Motorola, who in turn sued Apple. Nokia and HTC both have sued Apple, and Apple has sued both Nokia and HTC.

The web of competing claims on smartphone technology might seem a uniquely 21st-century problem. But according to legal scholar Adam Mossoff, the smartphone woes are reminiscent of a forgotten 19th century legal melee: the Sewing Machine War.

The sewing machine was “the first complex consumer product that arose through incremental inventions,” says Mossoff, a law professor at George Mason University and the author of a forthcoming article in the Arizona Law Review on the Sewing Machine War.

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