Less than half of A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War is spent on the biography of Edwin Land. Rather, the majority of the book is spent on the details of the 7 year Polaroid/Kodak lawsuit. I didn’t have an appreciation for the complexity of patent law until reading the book. It’s both incredibly dry but also incredibly fascinating.

Patents and patent law are critical to innovation but the entire legal process of a patent lawsuit is fascinating and dangerous. Experts spend time designing solutions that are then patented. And then it is up to lawyers and judges to determine whether these patents were legitimate. There’s so much nuance and complexity that needs to be explained that it’s not surprising that the majority of patent lawsuits end up settling - neither side wants to bet on a subjective outcome.

I used to dismiss patents as obvious but there’s so much I didn’t appreciate. The entire process of discovery where you’re going through documents and intervies on both sides sounds extremely complicated. As a lawyer you need to understand the technology well enough to determine whether the huge amount of information you’re going through is valuable and where within a lawsuit it may fit. It’s treacherous and has the potential to make or break a case. One bit of evidence can be enough to show hidden knowledge or motivation that can influence the case outcome.

It’s an incredibly difficult job and something I didn’t fully understand until slogging through the Polaroid/Kodak lawsuit details.


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