Libraries: The Great Patent Heist

The Great Patent Heist

Slipping rolls of microfilm into briefcases, the thieves evaded detection so effectively that their heists went unnoticed for weeks at the libraries of 13 major universities. When the operation ended, apparently in July, their collection of 3,000 reels was complete: a microfilm record of nearly every patent issued in the U.S. since 1969.

Why steal patents? Even a curious spy can buy a copy of any single patent for $1.50. Still, a roll of the microfilm sells for about $100, and the full set could be worth at least $100,000 to inventors who must explore the past before pursuing a new...

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