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The Wright Brothers file their first ‘flying machine’ patent

Today on March 23rd 1903, the Wright Brothers unsuccessfully file their first patent for the "flying machine".

Orville and Wilbur Wright are perhaps two of the most famous brothers in American history. The Wright Brothers are generally credited with inventing and successfully patenting the first airplane. In 1902, the two aviation pioneers conducted several experiments and eventually succeeded in controlling a glider across all three axes of the flight: pitch, roll and yaw. Most importantly, they discovered how to simultaneously use roll and yaw control to achieve a forward-elevated movement. On March 23 1903, they decided to write and file their first patent without any experienced legal support. This first attempt was swiftly denied by the United States Patent Office.

The following year they hired a patent attorney in Ohio and were finally granted U.S. Patent #821,393 on May 22 1906. From that moment on, the Wright Brothers aggressively defended their patent and sued many domestic and foreign aviation companies and inventors. Their most notable rival was a fellow American aviation pioneer, Glenn Curtiss, who they famously litigated against for licensing fees. By 1916, Wilbur had passed away and Orville entered retirement. He sold the rights to their patent to the Wright-Martin Corporation. The patent wars continued between several U.S. aviation companies, which largely hampered the industry’s growth and development. In fact, American pilots were forced to use more advanced European manufactured planes during World War I.

The elder brother Wilbur was the first to become airborne as he won a coin toss with Orville. In fact, the two brothers only ever flew together once. Their father had made them promise to fly separately in case of a fatal accident. The brothers always publically shared credit for their innovations and maintained a close relationship throughout their lives. However, Wilbur was known to be the true business and operational leader, and served as the president of the Wright Company.


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