While established corporations in the aviation and space sectors have plans for protecting their intellectual property, too many startups forego the opportunity to protect their critical innovations from competitors and simultaneously enhance efforts to recruit and retain key talent as well as attract investor interest and future funding.
The earliest actors in aviation in the United States quickly realized the value of protecting intellectual property. As efforts turned from development of gliders to powered flight in the late 19th century, aviation scientists and engineers openly collaborated to encourage progress. Self-taught engineer Octave Chanute shared information about his team’s glider flights with the Wright brothers during the run-up to their 1903 powered flight, and both began to commercialize their innovations. The Wright brothers in 1906 were granted U.S. Patent No. 821,393 for a flying machine. While this patent was generally directed toward their unpowered glider, the patent protected key mechanisms for controlling an aircraft in flight, applicable to many early aircraft.