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When most California business owners think of patent lawsuits they think of legal battles between Apple and Samsung, and they think of mom-and-pop inventors getting their ideas stolen by giant corporations. They don’t usually think of Isaac Newton; however, Newton is famous for more than just discovering gravity. He also pursued a well-known patent lawsuit.

In the early 18th century, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz — a German philosopher and mathematician — was known to be the creator or calculus. He had been the first mathematician to publish academic papers about calculus in 1684 and another one in 1686. However, Isaac Newton published a book titled Opticks in 1704, in which he named himself to be the “father of calculus” and this spurred a debate.

Newton argued that he was the creator of the “science of fluxions,” which he wrote about in 1665 and 1666. However, he only shared his writings with several colleagues. Newton claimed that Leibniz plagiarized his early drafts on the “science of fluxions” when Leibniz wrote about calculus. Newton’s accusations persisted all the way to Leibniz’s death in 1716, and nothing was ever settled. These days historians believe that both Leibniz and Newton co-invented calculus and they had their ideas independently.

To the modern reader of this blog it probably seems more important that we actually have the amazing tool of calculus than trying trying to answer the question of who invented it. However, for those who are currently engaged in an intellectual property or patent dispute, their entirely livelihoods and reputations could be at stake, so they may identify with Newton and Leibniz’s feud. Indeed an intellectual property disagreement could serve to make or break a business’s ability to generate a profit.

Source: Smithsonian Magazine, “Ten Famous Intellectual Property Disputes,” Megan Gambino, accessed Sep. 29, 2017