Whenever anything goes wrong in our country, those who have been to USA or any other foreign country like the UK, France of Germany would instantly remark, “This never happens in USA (or …).” Since we are a developing country with fewer resources and large number of mouths to feed, chances of corruption always loom over head. As for decision on legal matters, the lawyers drag the trials years after years to wear out the weak party to win the case. And when the victims of delayed justice lament, those who had seen the world remark, “This never happens in …..”
But is it true? I do not know of smaller issues but yesterday my son told me about the movie “Flash of Genius,” and the story of its main character Robert Kearns. And it was an eye opener. Robert Kearns suffered at the hands of the major automobile giants of USA and had to fight his case for over a decade.
It all started on his wedding night when a champagne cork shot up and hit his left eye to render him almost blind in his left eye. Relying almost on his one eye, one day while he was driving in a light rain, the speed of the wiper kept disturbing him. And that gave him an idea – the wipers of the car should operate intermittantly in light rain. Genius as he was, he designed what today we call "intermittent wipers." He then contacted major automobile manufacturers for selling his product but none responded. However the stole his idea and Ford and Chrysler started using this technology in their cars without his permission. So you see, such things do happen in USA.
Robert sued both companies for patent infringement. But the case against Ford which was entered in 1978, went on trial in 1990, after almost 12 years. Ford lost and so did Chrysler in 1992. It cost Robert some $ 10 million to fight his legal battle spanned over almost 12 years in case of Ford and 10 years in case of Chrysler. He was compensated for his efforts and was paid $ 10 Million from Ford and $ 30 Million from Chrysler.
Although he won his legal battle, he lost his marriage in the process as his wife, disgusted by the tensions of the long trials, left him. His cases against GM, Mercedes and some Japanese car makers were dismissed as he could not field his papers well, may be tired of his earlier legal battles. He also lost his life in 2005 while suffering from cancer.
As if he was the only inventor who underwent such treatment? No, there have been many cases where inventors have been robbed of their inventions in USA. Gordon Gould fought for some thirty years with the US Patent and Trademark office to obtain patent for his LASER and related technologies. Nikola Telsa fought for inventing radio in 1900 but died nine months before the Supreme Court verdict in his favour. The decision came as a shock for many as we all otherwise know Galileo Marconi to be the inventor of radio. One Walter C Avera won a lawsuit against GM and Ford car makers for illegally using his technique of coolant recovery system he invented in 1970.
So now you know, if you did not know before, “This also happens in USA.”