Before he was Attorney General
, A. Mitchell Palmer
was the Alien Property Custodian
, the U.S. Government agency in charge of seized enemy alien property during WWI
A. Mitchell Palmer seized all German owned patents during WWI, and began selling them to the highest bidders among American companies--naturally the largest--threatening to create an American monopoly to replace the German one; the Grasselli company alone received 1200 key patents.
It was the curious and unique American patent system, coupled with a strong textile and paper industry that prevented the growth of a native dyestuff industry in the United States.
Free Trade, that is, low tariffs on imported dyestuffs, was not conducive to the growth of national concerns in the face of cheap imports. The patent system allowed product patents on new compositions of matter, so that, even if produced by a different process, they were still protected. In 1912, according to a study by the U.S. Tariff Board, 98% of applications for patents in the chemical field were assigned to German firms, and never worked in the United States--and under the law, they did not have to be worked: most intermediates, the actual colour stuff, had to be imported. American companies never developed the methods of scientific research necessary to create their own industry.
However, the smaller companies argued against Palmer's distribution of the seized patents. His associate, Francis P. Garvin, suggested that a private trust hold the patents instead, and issue non-exclusive licenses to American; this prevailed. Nevertheless, the strongest companies still prospered over the weaker.
This legacy, the establishment of corporate control of scientific research in the American chemical industry, more than the Palmer Raids, has probably been of more consequence for the present, if equally unknown to the general public.
A great resource on this issue is:
David F. Noble
AMERICA BY DESIGN
Science, Technology and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism
Alfred A. Knopf, 1977