Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

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Case of the Rent-Seeking Airline Employees

Just when you thought airline delays and dirty planes couldn't get any worse comes an article in today's Wall Street Journal that gives airline passengers hope: "Case of the Vanishing Airport Lines" .

Alaska Air created a check-in process eliminating lots of airline counters (see the graphic) that reduces waiting time. But sad to say it, they patented this 4-step business process.

Step 1: Bypass ticket counter and go to a self-service kiosk.

Step 2: Check in at the kiosk, get boarding pass printed at kiosk.

Step 3: Leave luggage at bag drop station where bags are tagged.

Step 4: Go to security screening.

What's novel and non-obvious about any of this?

Self-service kiosks? Nope.

Checking in at kiosk, getting a pass? Nada.

Leaving luggage with an attendant, who bags it? Nein.

Going to screening? Non.

Can you say "bogus patent"?

It turns out that the firm took out the patent not to keep competitors at bay, but to reward those employees who worked on this, supposedly.

Supposedly, since Delta Airlines has done something similar in Atlanta, after viewing AA's setup in Anchorage. Will AA sue? If not, what's the point of getting a patent to reward its employees? Where are the rents if other airlines aren't prevented from building similar systems? Are they saying they just want to waste their shareholders' money paying patent lawyers? Or maybe they are reluctant to sue because they think their patent would be challenged, causing further litigation and more hard-earned shareholders' money to wash down the drain. Especially since the legal climate seems to be shifting away from patent holders, at least a little bit.


Your link is incorrect. It leads to a "free preview" rather than to the full text of the WSJ article. Please link to the full text of the WSJ article. Thank you.
If you read the damn article you'd see the link to the full article at the bottom FOR SUBSCRIBERS.

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