The Motion Picture Patents Company was the result of the patent wars that started when W.K.L. Dickson started his own company, the Biograph. Prior to that moment Edison and his company had nothing to worry about, for they were successful at dominating the motion picture field. When the Lumiere brothers came to the U.S. with their cinematograph, Edison found a way to lure them away. However, Dickson knowing the ways of Edison having previously worked for him creating the kinetograph, a 35mm camera, knew how to challenge the entrepreneur. He basically created an entirely different camera that shot 70mm films known as the mutoscope to avoid getting sued.
With the demand exceeding the supply in the film industry, another competition emerged, J. Stauart Blackon and his vitagraph and by 1898 there were three major studios, Edison, Biograph and Vitagraph. Edison reacted to these challenges by filing over twenty lawsuits in a matter of years. While sometimes he would succeed, he would more often fail to bring an end to these new companies. Edison would file lawsuits especially on Biograph since Dickson was his former employer and a great threat to his company. Still with Biograph having a patent to its camera the matter seemed rather impossible.
Eventually smaller companies started to emerge including Selig, Essany, Lubin, Kleine, Kalem, Melie’s Star, and Pathe. Edison’s need to dominate did not end yet and his only hope was to introduce the MPPC and get top billing. After a few months of disagreements between Edison and Dickson, the MPPC was finally established in 1908 with Biograph earning the second most profits followed by the rest.
With Edison and Dickson pleased with the result of a legal monopoly, they no longer had to fear competition. It was officially illegal to distribute or show any films without permission of the MPPC. They had the rights to every film and camera in the market and there for a while there was no one to stop them. Unfortunate for them, many parties were displeased with the total control over costs and prices, and with more demand than “the Trust” could provide, a second generation calling themselves Independents appeared. The Motion Picture Patents Company called them outlaws for they did not submit themselves to the monopoly.
The independents movement stayed away from New York and Edison’s monopoly to avoid lawsuits. In 1909, the Independent Motion Picture Company formed and used illegal equipment to strengthen their underground market. When stars started signing contracts to IMP, the Motion Picture Patents Company started losing control of the business and reacted by creating the General Film Company to block the distribution of independents without a license. It was then that the MPPC had effectively regained its monopoly. The monopoly would not last and the MPPC would soon meet its end.
William Fox, the owner of a film rental company didn’t want to sell his company to Edison who would constantly offer him deals, and Edison found himself facing another challenge. Soon the Fox Film Corporation started making movies and even after losing his license, he still defied the MPPC with a lawsuit that would lead to the decline of the Motion Picture Patents Company. The government was already not pleased with all the monopolies forming around the country and so Fox used this in his favor and it helped him win them over in a lawsuit that would bring an end to the patents trust formed by Edison and Dickson.