The iPhone Highlights The Difference Between Invention And Innovation

from the which-is-more-important dept

For many years, we've been talking about the important difference between invention and innovation -- and how invention is given too much credit, while innovation is given too little. Invention is the practice of coming up with something new. Innovation, however, is delivering something new to a market that wants it. In other words, innovation is figuring out how to take something new and actually bring it to market successfully. In the grand scheme of things, it's not hard to see why innovation should be more important than invention -- since it's really innovation that helps drive progress and make things better for people. An invention without the corresponding innovation is somewhat useless. Unfortunately, though, the patent system is much more focused on rewarding invention, rather than innovation (and, it often hinders innovation by making it more expensive).

Over at Computerworld, Mike Elgan has written up a great piece highlighting how the iPhone is a fantastic piece of innovation that really has very little new in it. As we pointed out when we questioned Apple's claim to 200 patents around the iPhone, the multi-touch interface isn't new and has been publicly demonstrated numerous times. Elgan points to that video as well as other examples of how almost all of the "new" things in the iPhone have actually been around for quite some time -- but that what's special about the iPhone is that it will really be the first time that such features and tools are available to the general public, and how it's then likely to move those same features from research labs into all sorts of common computing applications. That's great for everyone -- but it's about innovation, not invention, and it seems like the market can do a great job rewarding such innovation without resorting to patent-based monopolies.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Andrew, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 2:47pm

    I'm not even sure...

    I'm not even sure the patent system rewards invention anymore. It seems that currently it's a matter of who can fill out the forms first. Here's a National Geographic story about a patent for an anti-gravity propulsion system, "powered by a superconductor shield that changes the space-time continuum in such a way that it defies gravity. The design effectively creates a perpetual-motion machine, which physicists consider an impossible device."
    If it can't be built or implemented, I don't think it should be patentable. I've always thought that a patent application should include more than just a diagram of how something "should" work, but also some proof that (a) it will work somewhat as planned, and (b) proof that the inventor plans to do something with it (similar to filing a Declaration of Use for a Trademark). Such rules are already in place for "perpetual motion" machines:
    With the exception of cases involving perpetual motion, a model is not ordinarily required by the Office to demonstrate the operability of a device. If operability of a device is questioned, the applicant must establish it to the satisfaction of the examiner, but he or she may choose his or her own way of so doing. . .
    A rejection [of a patent application] on the ground of lack of utility includes the more specific grounds of inoperativeness, involving perpetual motion. A rejection under 35 U.S.C. 101 for lack of utility should not be based on grounds that the invention is frivolous, fraudulent or against public policy.

     

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  2.  
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    Apennismightier, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 3:57pm

    My Patent

    If you can think it, why not patent it? It's your idea. You're just annoyed you didn't think of it first.

    With that said, I've just applied for a patent for theoretical software that scours the intenet and removes stupid blog comments that complain about nonsensical crap.

     

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  3.  
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    Noel Le, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 4:34pm

    Patents ads

    While I'm writing this comment, I see two ads on TechDirt. One to help you "Patent Your Invention" and the other on a service for "Patent Leverage/Analysis."

     

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  4.  
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    Sohrab, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 4:37pm

    I think this points out a key thing. Nothing in the iPhone is that New. Minus maybe the touch interface that you can shrink and enlarge and zoom on documents and such.

    What makes the iPhone an innovation is the use of ease. The fact that the programs flow with each other and are built on each other, not just 10 random programs that might or might not conflict with one and other.

     

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  5.  
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    Paul, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 4:47pm

    Dictionary?

    What makes the iPhone an innovation is that they will successfully sell this garbage to people for $500 AFTER a 2 year contract.

    Of course the name of the game is sell as many as quick as you can, because once people get a hold of these things and realize that if they listen to music or use any of the other features on their phone they will find little or no battery left for actually making phone calls this won't be a hot item anymore.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    pvillese, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 5:01pm

    I-phone not really innovation either

    I personally already use a Nokia N800. The only things the iphone has that my Nokia doesn't is an cell phone, the multi touch screen, a totally locked down OS, and locked to only cingular service. The Nokia doesn't have its own cell phone so you can use any provider for service and just use bluetooth to connect to your cellphone of choice. Personally I don't see the need for cell service, most places I want to use it there is wifi available. Then I just use Google talk to call my friends.

    But to argue the battery life. For all it can do I think it has decent battery life, and my battery is really easy to change so I can just carry a spare battery if needed. So if the iphone has an accessible battery I wouldn't worry about battery life.

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Nobody, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 6:21pm

    Re: Dictionary?

    Uh, how about no? People paid $500 for the RAZR when it first came out. The only thing the RAZR had was that it was thin. That's it. At least the iPhone has a web browser, iPod-like music player, chat style texting, etc.

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Chris, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 7:39pm

    Re: Patents ads

    Noel, my good friend, may i introduce you to the marvel that is Adwords by Google.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 19th, 2007 @ 8:30pm

    You said "An invention without the corresponding innovation is somewhat useless." and "how invention is given too much credit, while innovation is given too little."

    Innovation is more or less just knowing how to market a product as best as possible - and there are a lot of resources out there to help in that effort.

    However, coming up with a truly novel and non-obvious idea/invention is far more difficult, especially with the lack of resources to aid in doing so. That is why invention is given much more credit then innovation.

     

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  10.  
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    Mike (profile), Feb 20th, 2007 @ 12:08am

    Re:

    Innovation is more or less just knowing how to market a product as best as possible - and there are a lot of resources out there to help in that effort.

    I disagree strongly. Actually being able to bring a product to market in a successful way is enormously difficult. If you look at all the great "inventors" you know about these days, most of them were actually innovators rather than inventors What they were able to do, however, was bring to market a product people wanted. It's not nearly as easy as you claim.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    ScytheNoire, Feb 20th, 2007 @ 4:33am

    We're Apple, we can do whatever we want

    Apple seems to take the MPAA/RIAA/MAFIAA approach to things... just say and do whatever you want, even if it is illegal and/or lying. it's the American business model - lie, cheat and steal, it's all about profit.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Vincent Clement, Feb 20th, 2007 @ 6:02am

    Re:

    If innovation is as easy as you say it is, why are there hundreds of thousands of "truly novel and non-obvious" ideas and inventions sitting on a shelf at the USPTO gathering dust?

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Bill_Gates?, Feb 20th, 2007 @ 6:14am

    Re: We're Apple, we can do whatever we want

    Seems you've got a strong distaste for Apple. Not sure the MPAA produces anything of value other than DRM policing. OTH, I heard Bill Gates vent about Apple and it's 'lying', cheating ways. Are you, in fact, BG?

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Andrew, Feb 20th, 2007 @ 9:16am

    Re: My Patent

    Yes, I cry myself to sleep every night over it.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Mike F.M, Feb 21st, 2007 @ 5:44am

    absurd

    You cannot say that "innovation should be more important than invention ". It's just not true. Neither one is anything without the other. There is no point having an invention if it is not applied to the market in a relevant way, nor could you have innovation without invention.

    One relies upon the other. They should be equally rewarded.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 21st, 2007 @ 9:56am

    Mike,

    You said "Actually being able to bring a product to market in a successful way is enormously difficult."

    Now you are contradicting yourself!

    In previous discussions related to the monopoly power of patents, you consistently voiced your opinion that giving an inventor a monopoly was not needed because there are ample resources available to help an inventor bring his product to market successfully (i.e. "if an inventor needs money, there are plenty of capital venture firm to give it to him", etc.).

    So, which is your real opinion:

    1) That bringing an invention to the market is *NOT* "enormously difficult" because there are ample resources available to assist an inventor in doing so.

    or

    2) That it *IS* "enormously difficult" to bring a product to the market, so the exclusivity/monopoly protection that a patent provides will significantly help an inventor because it removes the "competition" factor from the other typical difficulties that bringing a product to market involves.

    You can't have it both ways ;)

    (p.s. please don't reply with "neither" and then go off on some convoluted tangent to save face - because whatever you try to say, it has to boil down to one of the above two opinions or else it's probably not related to this point and would then be a meaningless response)

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Jeff, Feb 21st, 2007 @ 11:15am

    I remember a program on TV that showed how most modern innovations relied on other innovations that were decades if not centuries old.

    One I remember had something to do with the space shuttle and its transport train. The width of it is based on train tracks which themselves were based on roman chariot tracks. The roman chariots were built to accomodate the width of two horses asses.

    Surely, we humans can't take credit for the invention of horses asses but some of us have certainly (through innovation) perfected the art of being a horses ass.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 25th, 2007 @ 5:12am

    Mike,

    Can you clear up your contradiction for us?

    1) That bringing an invention to the market is *NOT* "enormously difficult" because there are ample resources available to assist an inventor in doing so, so there is NO need for a patent to provide a monopoly/exclusivity power to the inventor.

    or

    2) That it *IS* "enormously difficult" to bring a product to the market, so the exclusivity/monopoly protection that a patent provides CAN significantly help an inventor because it removes the "competition" factor from the other "enormously difficult" issues of bringing a product to market involves.

    (p.s. please don't reply with "neither" and then go off on some convoluted tangent to save face - because whatever you try to say, it has to boil down to one of the above two opinions or else it's probably not related to this contradiction of yours, and would then be a meaningless response)

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    smith, Mar 12th, 2007 @ 4:32am

    http://www.iphone-converter.org/

    Yeah, Apple Phone works. Just like they did with Apple TV. Still, they’re unlikely to change it now. http://www.iphone-converter.org/

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Cheermay, Jun 6th, 2010 @ 4:57am

    make iphone ringtone

    You can try this professional iphone ringtone maker http://www.makeiphoneringtones.net/ which can fastly convert a wide range of video and audio formats like AVI, MPEG, WMV, MP4, FLV, MKV, H.264/MPEG-4, DivX, XviD, MOV, RM, RMVB, MP3, WMA, AAC to iPhone Ringtone M4R and transfer to iPhone directly without iTunes.(MP3 to iPhone Ringtone and Just convert to m4r right now)
    Free download iphone ringtone maker by yourseflf now! i think it is useful and all of you can try it now!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Argus Engineering LLC, Jun 23rd, 2010 @ 8:47am

    We bring your ideas to life...

    Located in New Jersey USA, we bring your ideas to life:
    www.argusengineering.net

    Argus Engineering LLC
    Innovation for Hire

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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