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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 65.djvu/563

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INVENTION AND DISCOVERY.

becomes hopeless, disruption takes place, and the situation is abandoned. Further, in the majority of cases, after some substantial progress has been made it is found that under the existing patent laws insufficient protection can be secured, and the prospect of a reasonable return for the expenditure becomes doubtful. Under such circumstances the capitalist will generally refuse to proceed further unless the prospect of being first in the field may tempt him to continue.

Very many inventors, as I have said, avoid the expense of searching the patent records to see how far their problem has been attacked by others. In some cases the cost of a thorough search is very great indeed; sometimes it is greater than the cost of a trial attack on the problem. In the case of young and inexperienced inventors there sometimes exists a disinclination to enter on an expensive search; they prefer to spend their money on the attack itself. There are some, it is true, who have a foolish aversion to take steps to ascertain if others have been before them, and who prefer to remain in ignorance and trust to chance. It will, however, be said that the United States and German Patent Office reports ought to suffice to warn or protect the English patentee; but my own experience has been that such protection is not entirely satisfactory. There is, firstly, a considerable interval before such reports are received, and the life of a patent is short. Then, if the patent is upon an important subject, attracting general attention, the search is vigorous and sometimes overwrought, and the patent unjustly damaged or refused altogether. If, however, the patent is on some subject not attracting general attention, it receives too little attention and is granted without comment.