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Edison ...Wasn’t He the Guy Who Invented Everything?

Publication Date: 
March 30, 2008
The New York Times
Matt Richtel

Professor Mark Lemley is quoted in a New York Times article about a recording of the song "Au clair de la lune" that was made two decades before Thomas Edison's phonograph. The piece explores the question: Who do we credit with the invention of sound recording?

“It’s rare that you’ve got a major breakthrough that wasn’t developed by multiple people at about the same time,” said Mark Lemley, professor of intellectual property at Stanford Law School.


“It’s not that we wouldn’t have had the telephone. Not only would we have had it, we would have had it the same day,” Mr. Lemley said, adding: “The people who aren’t the winners in the historical dispute sort of fade into obscurity.”


The Wright Brothers held a critical patent for an early airplane, and history rewards them for it. But lots of other innovators were making significant advances in the technology, Mr. Lemley noted.