In the Long Tradition of Intellectual Property Theft, Escalators

By December 15, 2010intellectual property

Of all the mechanical and operational woes that bedevil Metro passengers in the Washington, D.C., area, escalator failures are the most woeful. Today’s Washington Post Style section’s piece on Moscow’s 643 moving stairs, “In Moscow, escalators to carry the city,” thus figures to be a high-readership article.

Moscow’s subway system is world-renowned, but did you know its origins lie in American ingenuity? Yep, there’s an IPR angle:

A German historian named Dietmar Neutatz has looked through Soviet archives and tells a somewhat different version of the story in a book he wrote about the Metro. The Soviet idea was to buy one escalator from Otis and then copy it. But Otis executives realized what was going on; they offered to sell one escalator for the price of 12. The Soviets declined, then dragged out negotiations as long as they could in order to find out as much as possible about the Otis escalator’s technical specifications. Then they broke off talks and built their own, as close a match as possible. Escalator piracy, it would be called today.

Yes it would.

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