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No Shortage Of Ideas... It's Successfully Bringing Them To Market That's Tricky

from the always-the-challenge dept

For years, plenty of people have pointed out the difference between innovation and invention, with a popular quote (attributed to way too many different people over the years) being that "invention is turning money into ideas; innovation is turning ideas into money." Basically, invention is coming up with a new idea -- innovation is successfully bringing a product to market in a way that people want. Where some people disagree is how important each of these stages are. Our position has been that innovation is a lot more important than invention. Successfully bringing a product to market is what makes the world a better place -- because it satisfies needs in the market and expands the economy. There were music players before the iPod, but Apple innovated the iPod into more of a "must have" device. There were cars before Ford, but he innovated to make it affordable for the average person. This is one of the reasons why we have such trouble with the patent system as it's currently designed. It rewards invention, but makes innovation more difficult and expensive.

A new study supports this point by showing that in most companies executives are a lot more worried about innovation than invention, saying that they're overwhelmed with ideas. It's successfully executing and putting those ideas into practice in a way that makes money that's so difficult. The study found only 17% of companies where execs were worried about not having the necessary ideas. Instead, most companies were greatly worried with taking those ideas and actually being able to bring them to market successfully. So once again, we're seeing that it's innovation that's the bigger challenge than invention. In fact, it seems that many companies feel that there are too many ideas going around -- and the real challenge is in executing and bringing those ideas successfully to market. So, why is it that our public policy is focused on just the invention process (of which there appears to be too much) while making it more expensive and difficult to execute and bring products to market (which is the real challenge companies are facing)?


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Joe, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 10:48am

    Yes...but how does it tie to the RIAA?

    Kind of a stretch using this article to support you "the patent system is horrible" high-horse isn't it? I'm surpised you didn't link it to the RIAA or "Movies are about the experience of going" somehow.

     

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  2.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 10:57am

    Invention: Coming up with a cure for cancer.

    Innovation: Bringing another ED product to market.

    I would imagine that a large percentage of those worried execs are concerned with WHICH good ideas should be brought to market, not that they have too many ideas. Resources are limited, so you don't want to spend your time and resources on bringing the wrong thing to market.

     

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  3.  
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    Simon, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:05am

    Use 'em or lose them.

    Anyone granted a patent should have 18 months to demonstrate that they are using it in a marketed product, or be forced to sell it to the highest bidder.

     

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  4.  
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    Tom, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:15am

    A Patent was originally about giving the inventor

    Ok, I will admit that I am not a studied patent historian, but my understanding was that the patent system was created to give the inventor enough time to "bring the invention" to market" before someone else could capitalize on the work and bring their own product to market. This was historically due to "groups" with cash to spare taking an idea to market quickly before the "literally" poor inventor could bring together the capital to market the product.
    That would be a good goal. In my humble opinion. The real trouble seems to be with the abuse of the system, like the current fad of very vague patents, and the patent protection of a concept instead of a physical product (or to be physical product). Weren't copyrights to protect concepts not patents? Unfortunately, the current speed to market of a year or two is much smaller than the 17 years that a patent protects a product.

     

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  5.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:15am

    Simon, a drug company files a patent on a new drug. Then they spend the next 8 years testing the drug in clinical trials. Where does the 18 months leave them?

    Do we just get rid of patents? Do we get rid of the clinical trial process?

     

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  6.  
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    angry dude, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:16am

    Re: Use 'em or lose them.

    My dear little ignorant friend,

    This kind of idea frequently comes up on sites like techdirt or slashdot, where C-grade students share their precious thoughts with each other and with the world.
    I have to dissapoint you, my friend: it's not just very foolish idea - it's totally unworkable.

    Go do your homework, dude, it will help you to improve your school grades...

     

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  7.  
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    Davin Peterson, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:16am

    Creative invented the iPod interface

    Creative invented the iPod interfacem but gets no recognition. Apple stole it for use in the iPod. Creative sued them and one $10 million dollars. But the iPod has caused Creative to lose money, while Apple unfairly profits. Why won't anybody give Creative a chance? Creative makes great a line of MP3 players, called the Zen. The first came out in 2000, 1 year before the iPod.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:24am

    Re:

    Do we just get rid of patents?
    Yes.

    Do we get rid of the clinical trial process?
    No.

     

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  9.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:28am

    Do we just get rid of patents?
    Yes.


    Do we get rid of the clinical trial process?
    No.

    Trick question then, if you get rid of patents, you won't need the clinical trial process.

     

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  10.  
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    Killer_Tofu (profile), Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:36am

    Rx Patents

    Drugs shouldn't be given patents.
    Me thinks it ruins the system.
    Software shouldn't get it either.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:48am

    Re:

    if you get rid of patents, you won't need the clinical trial process.
    Not true.

     

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  12.  
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    anonymous, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:48am

    (mike please keep my IP private)....
    I work at underwriters laboratories (think: giant worldwide company)...and it's really the same way. They have an excess of good ideas from internal processes to new business strategies, but they have tons of meetings exploring if ideas are viable/can be applied/etc. Indeed, innovation is short and invention is plentiful (albeit you can never have too much invention - you might never hear of a new idea if it's never conceptualized).

    Although I am not trying to say innovation should get more priority, its just simply a different way of thinking. Some people are inventors, some people are innovators, its like a left/right brain thing.

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 11:53am

    Re:

    Do we just get rid of patents?
    Yes.


    Do we get rid of the clinical trial process?
    No.

    Trick question then, if you get rid of patents, you won't need the clinical trial process.
    Patents are about granting govt. protected monopolies. Drug testing is about product safety. Those are two different things and one is not required by the other despite what is sometimes falsely claimed.

     

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  14.  
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    Right thought wrong pursuit, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 12:17pm

    This is true and untrue
    I hold four patents two of which are currently in the market place .... because I published Before i built I have at least five to ten major competitors
    I have two patents I have not published
    the cost to bring to market is over 2 and a half million dollars
    while i make enough income on the previous patents to help not nearly enough to bring to market
    and to quote the above no one is out there to help the inventor --
    Most angels and investors want more than a "peice of the pie"
    they want to own you and the invention in every way possible
    including having hte ability to "relieve you of position if it conflicts with their opinion" So i have had one of the patents for three years with the opportunity to work on it but not the capitol to take it to market
    so your idea of 1 year or sell it
    Niiiiice we little guys really appreciate your pompous arrogant attitude to us
    How about you create and we take it away from YOU???

     

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  15.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 12:24pm

    I would love to hear how companies would still pay a large sum of money to bring a drug to market (the clinical trial process) without the protection of a patent.

    It is easy to come out with soundbytes concerning reducing prices and cost, but the devil is in the detail.

    A perfect example of this is drug reimportation. I see some Sen. in VT is beating that drum again. Take advantage of Canada's lower drug prices, seems to make sense, but when you look at it, it really doesn't work. I worked for a consulting firm that advised a top 10 pharmaceutical company on the issue. It was basic math. When Canada's reimportation reached a certain point, then the drug company limited their supply to Canada. After that, either Canada stops allowing their supply of drugs to go south of the border because their people won't have supply enough for them or they run out of drugs.


    People trying to lower costs always take the easy way, ways that can be defeated by a business process. The hard stuff no one wants to deal with because that ticks people off and loses votes.

     

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  16.  
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    comboman, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 12:34pm

    Odd examples

    Innovation is hard to define and your examples don't help much.

    There were music players before the iPod, but Apple innovated the iPod into more of a "must have" device.

    So you're saying innovation = good marketing campaign??

    There were cars before Ford, but he innovated to make it affordable for the average person.

    Or are you saying innovation = mass production / cost reduction techniques?? I assume you're referring to the Selden patent which Ford had overturned, but just because there were bad patents (then and now) doesn't mean patents themselves are unnecessary. Selden's patent on the automobile was overly broad, obvious and ignored prior art (much like today's bad patents), and Henry Ford was not above patenting his own advancements in automobile design.

     

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  17.  
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    Pranz, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 12:36pm

    Nicce one there!!

    hi,
    Thats a nice article.Got me thinking.

    Nice comments by others as well.

     

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  18.  
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    The infamous Joe, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 12:59pm

    Ideas.

    As I see it, and I am certainly no expert, the entire process could be simplified if it were redesigned smartly.

    I have to agree, without patents, companies would not devote all the funds to developing a new drug. So, have a different patent process for drugs, having a relatively long period before the patent expires.

    Traditional inventions would be covered under a standard patent, with a short expiration limit. Allow for extensions that are the exception, not the rule.

    Software should not be patented at all, no more than books are patented. If I write a book, I string together words in a certain order in a certain language. When I write a program, I string together 'words' in a certain order using a certain language.

     

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  19.  
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    Hey Angry Dude, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 1:12pm

    .

    How about you give him a better idea instead of just trolling. While your at it you can put some rogaine on your balding head and wipe the cheetos crumbs off your 010100010010 t-shirt.

     

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  20.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 1:17pm

    I Joe, I would have no problem with that. I think sometimes people forget that timetables can be different depending on what industry you are talking about. 10 years for a drug patent seems like a long time, but in technology or consumer products (one in the same?) it is forever.

     

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  21.  
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    Kevin, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 1:53pm

    Re:

    I worked for a consulting firm that advised a top 10 pharmaceutical company on the issue. It was basic math. When Canada's reimportation reached a certain point, then the drug company limited their supply to Canada. After that, either Canada stops allowing their supply of drugs to go south of the border because their people won't have supply enough for them or they run out of drugs.

    So if a pill is sold in the US for $15 each, and the same pill is sold in Canada for $5 each, and reimportation screws everyeone, how about we just get the drug companies to set fair pricing? Charge $10 in the US and Canada. I'm assuming that it has something to do with bulk discounts, but I can't imagine that they sell more of any given drug in Canada than they do in the US (assuming that it is legal).

    Or are you saying innovation = mass production / cost reduction techniques?? I assume you're referring to the Selden patent which Ford had overturned, but just because there were bad patents (then and now) doesn't mean patents themselves are unnecessary. Selden's patent on the automobile was overly broad, obvious and ignored prior art (much like today's bad patents), and Henry Ford was not above patenting his own advancements in automobile design.

    I took it to mean that there were cars before Henry Ford came along. If I'm not mistaken Daimler had cars before ford, and there were other European companies making cars before Ford came along. Ford's "innovation" was in the production techniques. He was able to design a relatively simple car that could be assembled in mass quantities (as opposed to a complex car that was hand assembled, one at a time), which kept the prices low enough that more people could afford them. From there is snowballed.

    The comment had less to do with patents than it did with illustrating the point that it wasn't enough to simply invent the car for sales to take off in the US. There had to be innovation in the way that they were brought to market before sales could boom.

     

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  22.  
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    barren, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 2:39pm

    Patents are still needed

    I would have to say that invention is more important than inovation. People will buy most anything if you talk fast enough.....I know, I've been in sales for years and will own the store I run in a couple of years. Look at Ebay if you don't believe. Marketing is in no way as difficult as people make it sound. You put something out for sale and let the general public know what it is. Then you listen to thier comments as they browse and buy while noting thier gender, age, race, and creed. Let this go on for a month or two and you will have an accurate picture of who to aim your next set of advertisements at. After doing this for a few years you are generally able to look at a new product and know who is going to want it. Then, with a little experience and some more fast talking you are able to bring in different groups and market to them as well. Not hard, just takes money, time, experience, and a little bit of intelligence.

    The problem is that, like bad poetry, there is a ton of bad inventions. Because of this people think that anybody can do it, and set out to prove it. Yes, businesses are in the midst of an invention deluge, but most of the inventions are not worth the material they are made out of. The fact that there are so few succesful inventions while the world is cluttered by succesful businesses proves that invention proves that one is easier than the other.

    Not only that, but it's kind of difficult to market what hasn't been invented yet. I have been in business for years but I have yet to think of a single new product that would benefit anybody. In fact, I know a lot of people in business and not one of them has thought up a new product that is beneficial. That is why companies throw so much money down the black hole that is R&D. That is also why patents are needed. To protect the man/woman who invented a thing but has little to no knowledge concerning business and business practices. Still doesn't work all the time, but it is way better for those people than not having a set of regulatory laws.

     

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  23.  
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    mjr1007, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 2:42pm

    Missing the point again/still

    There is a fundamental point here that everyone seems to be missing. It's not the difference between innovation and invention, it's that some good ideas can't won't make money.

    There was a story about a while back about a old drug, off patent, which seemed to have some very nice anticancer properties. The concern was who would pay for the drug trials when it was no longer on patent. The point is that business is about making money not innovation. As the guy quoted an exec in the article, innovation without profit = expense.

    For those who wish to hear a solution, make all patents open licenses. All manufacturers pay 10% to license the patents they need for their products. Let some board decide how to divide up the proceeds. That way manufactures would compete on cost and quality and not stifle the market by locking up patents.

     

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  24.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 2:59pm

    MJR1007, sounds like an interesting article, have a link? Since the old drug was off patent, anyone could have run a trial. I wonder if anyone did. If you get a new indication (treatement of a different health issue) for an old drug, you can gain some patent protection, although with off label prescribing, not sure how effective that would be).

    Seems to me that is exactly something the NIH should do.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 3:55pm

    Re:

    I would love to hear how companies would still pay a large sum of money to bring a drug to market (the clinical trial process) without the protection of a patent.
    If you're willing to pay me then I'll tell you. I'll be wanting my money up front though.

    That tired old claim that there would be no drugs without patents has been proven to be false over and over again. In fact, it's been pointed out to you before right here on Techdirt, so I know you know where to look to refresh you memory in case you've "forgotten" (unlikely). Anyone who wants to read the numerous examples can use the Techdirt search function. Look especially for some of the stuff written by Mike.

    People trying to lower costs always take the easy way, ways that can be defeated by a business process. The hard stuff no one wants to deal with because that ticks people off and loses votes.
    People looking for "easy" money don't like competing in free markets. They much prefer to invest in a little government protection.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 4:16pm

    Re: Ideas.

    I have to agree, without patents, companies would not devote all the funds to developing a new drug
    Two points:

    1. They spend much more on marketing than they do inventing.

    2.Large corporations outside the drug industry readily spend more marketing non-patentable products than drug companies spend inventing drugs.

    Considering those two facts, it is hard to believe that drug companies would stop producing new drugs if it weren't for patents. And indeed history has also shown that patents aren't needed to make new drugs.

    The current situation actually just means that drug companies often refuse to bring out alternative drugs that they can't patent no matter how good they may be and so in that way drug patents are hurting society. Hey, but at least we get Viagra.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 4:28pm

    Seems to me that is exactly something the NIH should do.
    I'm sure the drug companies would love to be able to re-patent generic drugs.

     

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  28.  
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    Ed C., Sep 6th, 2007 @ 5:50pm

    Re:

    How about instead of trying up the IP that you can't afford to produce, license it someone who can. That is how this is supposed to work you know! Not unless you plan to make money on it by just lurking on the bottom and suing anyone who actually does all of the work and figures it out for you.

     

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  29.  
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    mjr1007, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 5:52pm

    Still missing the point

    The point is that drug companies are interested in profits not medicines.

    I'm sure if they had to chose between a drug that cured AIDS and one that required dosage for the rest of the patient's life they would go into drug trials with the one that required treatment forever. There is more money in it.

    You only have to have a cursorily knowledge of Adam Smith's writing, as I do, to know he was very concerned about monopolies. Monopoly is the enemy of good management.

    There is a thriving generic drug business, so clearly companies will produce drugs off patents. The question is how to motivate research. Open licensing will do that.

     

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  30.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 6:28pm

    MJR, of course the question is motivating research. You want the Govt. to do that? Look at the VA to see how they do healthcare.

    As for marketing by drug companies, isn't marketing a revenue enhancer? Bigger marketing, more sales? Isn't there a ROI in marketing? If so, then marketing has absolutly nothing at all to do with how much research a company does, because it adds to the bottom line, not subtract.

    As for it being pointed out here, where? I hear a lot of talk about how it should be done, but no one actually says what the plan is. What is this place? Congress?

    As for refusing to bring out a drug they can't patent even though it would be better, I missed your point. Why wouldn't they bring a better drug to market? If they can't patent it, it must already exist so whats the point?

    Its a simple question. If I am an invester looking to put my money behind R&D, would I pick something that would have a patent or would I pick something that as soon as I brought the product to market, everybody else out there could bring the exact same product to market? Why would I invest in that? Would you? (If so, do you?)

    I know, next we can talk about how the whole healthcare system needs to change. Until it does, I believe that patents are vital to encouraging R&D, at least in the drugs space.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 6:45pm

    If I am an invester looking to put my money behind R&D, would I pick something that would have a patent or would I pick something that as soon as I brought the product to market, everybody else out there could bring the exact same product to market? Why would I invest in that? Would you? (If so, do you?)
    Given the choice of investing in something protected up by a government backed monopoly or the same thing without in a free market, I think most would probably choose the monopoly. And having done so, would they want to see that monopoly protection ever eliminated? Probably not. In fact, some such investors would probably even resort to constantly trolling forums with bogus claims in an effort to sway public opinion and protect their investments.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 6:48pm

    Re:

    If they can't patent it, it must already exist
    Another blatant falsehood. Typical.

     

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  33.  
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    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 7:11pm

    Blatant falsehood? Explain that one to me. If something is out there unable to be patented, then everyone can sell it. If everyone could sell it, why don't they?

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 7:43pm

    Re:

    MJR, of course the question is motivating research. You want the Govt. to do that? Look at the VA to see how they do healthcare.
    That's kind of like saying "Look at what Union Carbide did in Bhopal, India to see how corporate industry does business." It's the kind of lame inflammatory rhetoric often used by those who can't make their point otherwise.

    As for marketing by drug companies, isn't marketing a revenue enhancer? Bigger marketing, more sales? Isn't there a ROI in marketing? If so, then marketing has absolutly nothing at all to do with how much research a company does, because it adds to the bottom line, not subtract.
    So what's your point? You want monopoly protection for marketing too? Trademarks aren't enough for you? Lots of companies invest lots of money, marketing and otherwise, in things without monopoly protection. And no, I'm not going to lookup a bunch of examples for you that you'd just conveniently forget tomorrow anyway. Do your own homework.

    As for it being pointed out here, where?
    I'm not buying your bad memory bit.

    As for refusing to bring out a drug they can't patent even though it would be better, I missed your point. Why wouldn't they bring a better drug to market? If they can't patent it, it must already exist so whats the point?
    The point is that it is easier to make money with monopoly protections as opposed to free markets. When they have monopolistic pursuits available as choices, they tend to ignore the others. What else would anyone expect?

    Its a simple question. If I am an invester looking to put my money behind R&D, would I pick something that would have a patent or would I pick something that as soon as I brought the product to market, everybody else out there could bring the exact same product to market? Why would I invest in that? Would you? (If so, do you?)
    It's a simply rigged question, that is. You limit the the choices between two artificially constrained options and deliberately ignore the effects of branding, marketing, distribution and so on.

    I know, next we can talk about how the whole healthcare system needs to change. Until it does, I believe that patents are vital to encouraging R&D, at least in the drugs space.
    And I believe you are willing to go around saying just about anything to protect your drug monopoly investments.

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 8:00pm

    Re:

    Blatant falsehood? Explain that one to me.
    I won't explain it to you because I think you know perfectly well. I will, however, explain it others that may be reading this: The patent laws don't say that anything not already existing can be patented. There are other requirements. To claim otherwise is an obvious falsehood.

    RandomThoughts has a blog of his own, yet he spends a LOT of time posting here, and I have to wonder why. I believe that it is because his own sandbox is so full of crap and stinks so bad that most people won't go near it, so he winds over here instead shilling and spreading falsehoods.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    RandomThoughts, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 8:07pm

    My marketing response was talking to this post (They spend much more on marketing than they do inventing.)

    Marketing has nothing to do with R&D. It doesn't detract from research. That was my point.

    So you want to base our healthcare on branding, marketing and distribution? No thanks.

    As for my bad memory, of course you can't point out details, specifics. They just don't exist.

    As for the Govt. taking over, ok, forget the VA, what else does the Govt. do really well. If they paid $600 for a toilet seat, how much would it cost for a new drug? You talk of getting rid of regulation, getting the govt. out of things and then you want them to take over research?

    I find it funny how you attack those with opinions different from yours, but I guess thats the norm. I have no drug monopoly interests outside of mutual funds, what does concern me is people who want to implement "easy" answers for healthcare.

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    mjr1007, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 9:08pm

    Getting closer to the point

    The point is that companies are run to maximize profits, period. Monopolies help in that regard.

    The goal of the patent law is not to maximize company profits but to encourage progress in the useful arts and sciences.

    The individual researcher is the one who should make the decision. Which was the point of the article and my comment.

    Currently only the most profitable, not the most effective solutions are being looked at. It ends up being a very inefficient system.

     

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  38.  
    identicon
    Clair, Sep 6th, 2007 @ 10:42pm

    Patents

    These days companies seem to forget why we have patents and if we will not go back to the spirit of why they exist, we'll get stuck in this kind of thinking that they're to maximize profits. That's so sad. We can't even seem to think of how our service improves our lives.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Ideabobber.com, Feb 23rd, 2008 @ 2:24pm

    Ideabobber.com

    We try and share those ideas that just sit on shelves - Float, Vote and Search for Ideas: http://www.ideabobber.com

     

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