Howe v. Singer (The start of the sewing machine wars)
Elias Howe claimed to be the original inventor of the sewing machine-and his proof was his U.S. patent. Isaac Singer took the position that the technology had evolved over decades and everyone should be allowed to compete. After years of litigation, the courts sided with Howe. The battle between the two migrated from the courtroom to the media. On July 29, 1853 the same page of the New York Daily Tribune ran the following two advertisements:
The Sewing Machine -It has been recently decided by the United States Court that Elias Howe, Jr., of No. 305 Broadway, was the originator of the Sewing Machines now extensively used. Call at his office and see forty of them in constant use upon cloth, leather, etc., and judge for yourselves as to their practicality. Also see a certified copy, from the records of the United States Court, of the injunction against Singer’s machine (so called) which is conclusive …. You that want sewing machines, be cautious how you purchase them of others than him or those licensed under him, else the law will compel you to pay twice over.”
Sewing Machines – For the last two years Elias Howe, Jr., of Massachusetts, has been threatening suits and injunctions against all the world who make, use or sell Sewing Machines …. We have sold many machines-are selling them rapidly, and have good right to sell them. The public do not acknowledge Mr. Howe’s pretensions, and for the best reasons. 1. Machines made according to Howe’s patent are of no practical use. He tried several years without being able to introduce one. 2. It is notorious, especially in New-York, that Howe was not the original inventor of the machine combining the needle and shuttle, and that his claim to that is not valid … Finally-We make and sell the best SEWING MACHINES.
By 1855 there were more than 70 patents covering various improvement to the sewing machine, leading to an all out patent war that virtually crippled the sewing machine industry.