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In 1914, the National Institute of Inventors (NII) emerged as an organization dedicated to the "mutual aid, betterment, and protection" of America's independent inventors. Unfortunately, the Nil was a scam its officers simply pocketed the membership dues, embezzling thousands of dollars from America's unsuspecting inventors. The NII emerged at a time when independent inventors desperately wanted and needed professional organizations to provide the legal, financial, and marketing assistance necessary to develop their ideas. Unfortunately inventors' eagerness to join such organizations also made them vulnerable to exploitation. The case of the NII underscores how independent inventors unlike scientists and engineers failed to maintain durable organizations that might have been effective advocates for an increasingly troubled profession.
Date of Conference: 5-7 Aug. 2009