TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: AT&T Licensed the Transistor For Free

Re: AT&T Licensed the Transistor For Free

Tue, 17 May 2005 18:11:54 -0700

In article <>,

> From time to time critics of the old Bell System gripe that the
> company was "guaranted profits" by the regulators and as such, owed
> something back to the community.

> Aside from the fact that regulation actually limited profits, AT&T was
> indeed required to give things back. One of which was the rights to
> its invention of the transistor, which were available free of charge.
> (Per Ziff-Davis history).

> I had always wondered why AT&T never seemed to make any money
> from the invention of the transistor.

> I presume other Bell Labs patents were also available free; indeed, I
> never knew of AT&T making money from licensing its many inventions.
> It appears patents were more for freedom of use than profit. IBM
> adopted a similar policy in the 1950s. Both did so from anti-trust
> settlements.

Bell Labs did attempt to exploit the 1958 patent on various laser
concepts assigned to it by Columbia Professor and consultant Charles
Townes, leading to the lengthy legal battle with independent inventor
Gordon Gould described in Nick Taylor's interesting book "LASER: The
Inventor, the Nobel Laureate, and the Thirty-Year Patent War," Simon &
Schuster, 2000 -- a war which Gould eventually "won", at least in some
limited sense.

[Cross-posted to since there may be some interest

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