The unknown story behind the first patented fuel-powered car

08/23/2018

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Ever wonder when the first gas-powered car was invented and how people fought to exploit its patent? Read the article below for the full story!

1. Gas-powered car was originally called “liquid-hydrocarbon engine"

On an Autumn day of 1895, George Seldon successfully imprinted his name on the patent numbered 549160 for having invented an "Advanced engine".

This is the first engine that runs on fuel, or the exact words in the patent - "liquid-hydrocarbon." By possessing this patent, Selden officially became the inventor of such engine, even though he was actually not the real inventor of it (the patent system can be cruel sometimes).

2. The real inventor 

Indeed, his design was not original at all. It copied more than 90 percent of a two-cylinder combustion engine that he saw earlier at the Philadelphia Exposition, in 1872. Nevertheless, officially recognized as the owner of mentioned engine, he sold the patent to a bunch of shark investors so that they could help him squeeze huge profit out of that. Did not waste a second, the groups quickly brought a lawsuit against the biggest car manufacturer of the US at the moment - Winton Motor Carriage, on the grounds that the company built many cars using "his" technique. Winton did not want any trouble with his profit and decided to settle the case. Seldon came out of the courthouse with a victory and a patent to continue to uphold.

the first gas-powered car

Who could imagine the first patented fuel car was actually not the first one invented!

Biggest automakers at that time are no beginners, they knew that there's no way they could force Selden to give the patent to them or bought a lawsuit against him. Instead, they chose a much wiser approach, is to create a win-win situation.

They and Seldon together created a kind of league to make use of Selden's so-called invention and profit out of it. The league was later called the Association of Licensed Automobile Manufacturers (ALAM). They formed a gang that brought anyone who attempted to manufacture a gas-powered without asking for their permissions to court. This created an effective monopoly that punished those who did not pay them beforehand.

3. The role of Henry Ford in the whole story

In some ways, a small company managed to produce a gas-powered vehicle without being sued by the said gang. That company belongs to the legendary Henry Ford. Part of the reasons why Henry Ford wasn't sued in the first place is probably he sold a car at the lower segment than theirs. Eventually, the gang found out and once again they threatened to punish Henry Ford. They went to the court twice with Ford losing the first time. In the second battle, the court declared that the patent was only valid on a vehicle that is identical to the model of which he used to register his patent. Henry Ford came out on top since then.

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