Lack of Patents Helped Even in the 19th Century US

This semester my humanities class is titled "Technology in American History". We first started talking about the various meanings and connotations of the world "technology" and how these are significant. Since then, we've been talking about technologies that the Native Americans and early European settlers used, progressing all the way to early 19th century American technology. Today's lecture was on the role of the government in technological developments at that time.
One of the parts I found interesting in today's lecture was that in the early- to mid-19th century, techniques used in the manufacturing of guns were later applied to the manufacturing of seemingly unrelated things, like sewing machines (Remington at one point was a huge manufacturer of both sewing machines and rifles), pocket-watches, and early automobiles. Yet, these processes had no patents on them, and that's because this was all technology adapted from what was being done in the US national armories at Harpers Ferry and Springfield. Basically, the government allowed inventors and entrepreneurs full, unrestricted access to the armories provided that what they created wouldn't be patented — or, if they were patented, which is what happened in one or two isolated cases, the patent-holder(s) couldn't collect any royalties. Because of that, competition was allowed to come about, prices dropped, more innovation was being made, and the consumers won for it.
Yes, it is true that back then, it was quite a bit more costly to try to innovate something, and even afterwards, it was costly to produce it, so patents did help mitigate those costs. Now, however, especially in the software and pharmaceutical industries, patents are preventing real competition from coming about and prices are being held artificially high, and companies don't have any incentive to further innovate because they have a monopoly. And even then, there's evidence with the innovations of people like James Watt and Thomas Edison that inventors even then kept prices artificially high and didn't innovate as much because of the legal monopoly.
Also, my professor did talk about his sort of central thesis in his view of the government and technology: he sees that in most major technological developments, it's "government in, then government out". While this has been true for most major things like airplanes and the Internet itself, the fact is that patents are really just government-granted and enforced monopolies. This means that when a private inventor applies for a pattern, government comes in but doesn't go out for quite a while, especially considering all the patent infringement-related lawsuits (which involve the judicial branch of the government) in the last decade or so. Then again, such lawsuits dated back even then, and they were just as costly then as they are now.

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