Some time ago I read a claim that an early discovery can lead to a great scientific stagnation. The example given was the Chinese porcelain, that resolved all the known problems, and stopped the research, but not the problems that a more advanced metallurgy could resolve. I can remember neither the author nor the name of the theory. Can anyone help?
In Dutch this is known as wet van de remmende voorsprong, which has been translated to Law of the handicap of a head start on Wikipedia. The page has a few examples similar to yours.
That a page with such an awful name exists plus the number of discussions I find about how to translate the Dutch phrase makes me think that there is no exact name for this phenomenon in English.
Although the linked Convergence (economics) seems to come close.
One possible term for the situation you described is technological lock in. This is more commonly associated with the development of sustainable energy (vs cheap oil), so it is probably not the specific name you were looking for. It does however refer to a similar situation where non-optimal (for a given definition thereof) technology becomes dominant, and retards progress on alternative technologies due to macro factors acting as barriers.
This is theorised to happen under a number of situations. Alternatives with better potentials in the future may be unable to match the matured technology in performance now. Moreover, the dominant method has institutional, infrastructural advantages, which with economies of scale disincentive alternative methods that could not offer competitive returns.
A summary I found is:
Technological lock-in results from a confluence of economic and political factors including network externalities, economies of scale, path dependency, vested interests and regulatory frameworks. Thus, technologies become locked-in through wide diffusion and usage and not necessarily as a result of absolute technical or economic superiority, underscoring the influence of behaviour.
- Theiss, D.S. "Changing Behaviour: individual energy use, strategic behavioural niche management and decentralised energy generation in the UK". Proceedings of the International Conference on Micro Perspectives for Decentralized Energy Supply. Technische Universität Berlin. 2011.