Deciding to Share
AT&T was a powerful monopoly with one of the best research and development operations around, Bell Labs. The combination didn't look good to the public -- it would be too easy for Bell to hoard information crucial to the national interest. While Bell had always had a policy of sharing what it discovered, at least after patents and other considerations had been worked out, public opinion began to turn against the phone company. The government filed an antitrust suit against AT&T.
The court case was settled in 1956 with what's referred to as a "consent decree." The decree obligated Bell to license all their technologies for reasonable royalties. But even before the case was settled, Mervin Kelly, then the president of Bell, wanted to show that Bell willingly shared its inventions.
Also, Kelly knew that the best way to improve the transistor would be to encourage other labs to start studying it. Many minds working together on the same project would probably benefit AT&T in the end.
So, late in 1951, Bell began to offer licenses to other companies at $25,000 a license. For their money, the buyers were allowed to build and sell their own transistors. And to get them on their feet Bell invited them all to a symposium to learn the technology.
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