A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War
Ronald K. Fierstein
Apple founder Steve Jobs once hailed Edwin Land, the founder of Polaroid and the father of instant photography, as "a national treasure" and once confessed to a reporter that meeting Land was "like visiting a shrine." By his own admission, Jobs modeled much of his own career after Land’s. Both Jobs and Land stand out today as unique and towering figures in the history of technology. Neither had a college degree, but both built highly successful and innovative organizations. Jobs and Land were both perfectionists with an almost fanatic attentiveness to detail, in addition to being consummate showmen and instinctive marketers. In many ways, Edwin Land was the original Steve Jobs.
This riveting new biography visits the spectacular life of Edwin Land, perhaps the most important, yet least known inventor and technology entrepreneur in American history. Land’s most famous achievement was the creation of a revolutionary film and camera system that could produce a photographic print moments after the picture was taken. A Triumph of Genius takes you behind the scenes of this reclusive genius’s discoveries, triumphs, and defeats.
You'll learn details of Land’s involvement over four decades with top-secret U.S. military intelligence efforts during World War II and through the Cold War in the service of seven American presidents. Additionally, you'll thrill to the compelling first-hand look at one of our nation’s most important legal battles over intellectual property—Polaroid versus Kodak. This corporate and legal struggle is a story of almost operatic dimension. What began as a cooperative and collegial relationship ended in Kodak’s betrayal. The conflict led to an epic legal battle, a dramatic event for Land who, from the witness stand, personally starred in a compelling courtroom drama.
More than a simple business biography, A Triumph of Genius chronicles the man and the icon whose technological brilliance paved the way for another of the 20th century’s greatest innovators, Steve Jobs.
we can proceed to have discovery progress promptly on both sides.”24 It was April 1978, and the New York Yankees were beginning a new baseball season in defense of their twenty-first World Series victory the previous fall, this time over the Los Angeles Dodgers. At this point, the Polaroid v. Kodak lawsuit was basically two years old, but both sides were still awaiting the “first pitch” of meaningful discovery in their own world series of litigation. Now that Kerr seemed to be making some
high federal excise tax of approximately twenty-five percent charged to purchasers of amateur cameras, “amateur” being defined as weighing less than four pounds.10 Since it was already apparent to Land and McCune that their camera was going to be relatively heavy anyway, they made sure that the Model 95 weighed more than four pounds, so it could avoid the tax. Today, when one lifts one of these original cameras, one is struck by its massive weight as compared with cameras of more recent vintage.
endeavor “a rather thrilling pursuit.”56 The challenge had to do with the nature of the silver compound that would be formed upon development to diffuse and create the image and the physical and chemical structure of the image layer itself. Land and Morse, after a period of intense work, eventually developed an imaging chemistry and structure for the image-receiving part of the film in which “the deposited image silver was restricted to the interstices of a matrix of colloidal silica.”57 That is,
specific estimates of which McCune laid out in great detail for a ten-year period. Land stated that he hoped that the anticipated high volume of these supply requirements “would minimize the pressure for licenses from Polaroid.” In response, the Kodak position, as articulated earlier by Eilers in his note to Gabel, was once again presented to the Polaroid executives. Petersen emphasized Kodak’s primary business objective of producing its own products for distribution and sale, and although a
audience was amazed by the “spellbinding display.”53 It was impressed by the quality of the color prints that were noted by Time’s photography correspondent as being “superior to any previous Polaroid process.” “Unlike the damp prints that emerge from present models, the new ones—which are made of plastic, not paper—feel completely dry, even during the remarkable, outside-the-camera developing process,” continued the impressed journalist.54 Land pointed out that the new film unit allowed the user