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You also might ask: How did the US get to the top in the first place? It was not exactly known for respecting English and German patents in the 19th century...

WWII baby. The US blackmailed the UK out of its patents (in return for assistance) and the US basically took all of Germany's IP as payment. I'll get modded to hell for that - but it had to be said.

I don't think you have to invoke any legal trickery or belief in the power of "Intellectual Property": in 1945 the US was, more or less, the only large industrialized capitalist nation that hadn't been bombed to bits.

UK, Germany, and Japan were still stacking their buildings' bricks back on top of each other while the US was figuring out what to do with its absurd postwar excess manufacturing capacity.

sure, and now China is repeating history.

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