Ideas Are Easy... Execution Is Difficult

from the so-why-do-we-protect-the-ideas? dept

It's an ongoing theme around here, but ideas are everywhere. The real trick to making something great often has extremely little to do with the idea, and much more to do with the execution. That's where the real innovation occurs -- in taking an idea and trying to figure out how to make it useful. It's that process that's important, much more than the original idea. As nearly anyone who has brought a product from conception to market will tell you, what eventually succeeds in the market is almost always radically different than the original "idea." That's part of the reason why patents are so often harmful to innovation. The patent is for that core idea, which is rarely the key in making something successful. But by limiting who can innovate off of the idea (or just by making it much more expensive) you're limiting that process of innovation.

Some people disagree with this, but the failure of Cambrian House, once again seems to demonstrate the vast gap between ideas and execution. Cambrian House was a well-hyped company that tried to "crowdsource" new companies and products. I've paid attention to them for a while, since their business model had some similarities to what we do with the Techdirt Insight Community. However, as the founder of Cambrian House admitted in explaining the company's changing plans, it wasn't difficult to get people to come up with all sorts of interesting and exciting ideas -- but where the company failed was in getting anyone to actually execute on any of those ideas. Ideas are a starting point -- but it's high time that we stopped worshipping the idea, and started recognizing how much more important execution is in driving innovation.


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    angry dude, May 15th, 2008 @ 10:21am

    mikey's a freaking genious

    Yeah, idea's are pretty worthless

    like E=mc^2 idea - takes just couple seconds for every techdirt lemming to write on a piece of paper

    Building an atomic bomb is a lot harder - takes many years, thousands of people and billions of dollars

    But without E=mc^2 (and a whole bunch of other "simple" ideas dreamed up by many individual folks) there is no atomic bomb

     

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      Jim, May 15th, 2008 @ 1:07pm

      Re: mikey's a freaking genious

      Mike's point is that execution is the hard part. Are you arguing that he is wrong? Or are you just arguing?

      (by the way - if all of the ideas had to be individually licensed then there would have been no bomb)

       

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    A. Rational Human, May 15th, 2008 @ 10:33am

    Ideas are cheap - excecution is difficult and costly

    I absolutely agree with you.

    All an idea is, is a guess based upon a feeling, submerged in a swamp of random and often irrelevant experience. Putting such a thing in a patent application camouflaged by a flood of technobable, does not make it an invention.

    At best, an idea is a launching pad - a take off point. Converting the idea into something that can be built and that actually works is very difficult. Making something out of it that others want and are willing to pay for is even more difficult. Unless and until you move from that "brilliant billion dollar" idea to the point of actually EARNING that billion dollars, its nothing but a pile of bullshit in the dark.

    I am convinced the "fix" for our patent mess is that one should have to DEMONSTRATE, to a jury of competent engineers in the relevant field, the idea actually working and show that it actually has the specific properties your patent application says it has. Add that to the new, useful, and non-obvious finding and you eliminate 80+% of patent applications before they get past the mail room. Interestingly, this would simply be a return to common US Paten Office practice during the 19th century.

     

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    Adam Fisk, May 15th, 2008 @ 10:59am

    Couldn't Agree More

    It's hard to learn this lesson unless you've had to execute something, but your point is unbelievably true. The degree of its truth struck me recently when discussing an idea with a group that did not have the skills to execute the idea. The conversation immediately turned to patents and legalities, and I was left scratching my head because all I cared about was the execution.

    The correlation with patents is what struck me. Patents make a lot more sense *if all you have is the idea*. If you have the capacity to execute, you know someone else would have to out-execute you to hinder your success. If you're good, then you have reasonable confidence in your ability to out-execute many comers. If you don't have the capacity to execute, however, the idea is all you've got. Then the conversation turns to the drudgery of patent law, forming a barrier to the next person who comes along with the same idea who might actually be able to do something with it.

    You're point is something much of patent law misses: ideas are worthless.

     

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      Nasch, May 16th, 2008 @ 11:17am

      Re: Couldn't Agree More

      You're point is something much of patent law misses: ideas are worthless.

      I don't think that was his point - I hope it was not. Ideas are not worthless, they are abundant. There's a difference - consider oxygen, for example.

       

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    Ajax 4Hire, May 15th, 2008 @ 11:12am

    Ideas are like ears...

    everyone has a couple of them.

    It takes the hands to make something worthwhile.
    Talk and Ideas never feed the hungry, clothed and housed the poor.

    The greatest people in history are the ones who did something with their ideas; built something with their hands .
    The idea of heart surgery is nice but it is the heart surgeon who saves your life.
    The idea of clean water is nice but it is the act of pasteurization that saves your life.

    Ideas will start the process but without action behind the idea,
    it is just talk in the wind.

     

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    Nicole, May 15th, 2008 @ 11:13am

    Improving the Interface.

    One the most damning misconceptions about non-practicing entities (NPEs) is that these establishments secure patents with the intent of pursuing lawsuits with companies that actually product the inventions that they’ve patented. Sure, that may happen with some NPEs, but what’s generally missing from pieces by journalists attacking NPEs is that many NPEs are actually trying to facilitate a more effective interface between the independent inventor and those that have established means to manufacture these inventions. David Kaefer, Microsoft’s director of business development for intellectual-property licensing, expresses this best by dividing NPEs into “patent speculators” (bad) and “patent aggregators,” such as Intellectual Ventures (IV):

    As Kaefer puts it, “It’s a chess board of leverage and counter-leverage.” Entities like IV provide a variety of benefits for companies, he says, including one that might surprise you: By providing a venue to buy and sell patents, he says, such firms “reduce litigation.”

    Historically, companies have invested in intellectual property after the “R” and before the “D” in the research and development cycle to prevent competitors from making or using products invented by a company. What I’m seeing now is the emergence of new business models that invest in the intellectual property before the “R,” upstream of the research. So you can gamble with the success of a product in two ways:

    1. invest in R&D and protect inventions that prove to be implementable

    2. invest in intellectual property and protect inventions that are predicted to be implementable

    The intent to bring the product to market is still there. What’s the big deal with this business model?

     

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      Mike (profile), May 15th, 2008 @ 1:08pm

      Re: Improving the Interface.

      but what’s generally missing from pieces by journalists attacking NPEs is that many NPEs are actually trying to facilitate a more effective interface between the independent inventor and those that have established means to manufacture these inventions.

      That's not missing. It's been discussed plenty of times. The problem is that, inevitably, the NPEs overvalue the "idea" part as opposed to the implementation part. That's the problem.

      Also, there isn't any inefficiency in connecting inventors to manufacturers in the absence of patents, so I'm not sure why you need a separate system to facilitate it. That's only true (again) if you overvalue the importance of the idea part.

      1. invest in R&D and protect inventions that prove to be implementable

      2. invest in intellectual property and protect inventions that are predicted to be implementable

      The intent to bring the product to market is still there. What’s the big deal with this business model?


      Simple. You're focused on protection rather than winning in the actual marketplace.

       

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        Nicole, May 15th, 2008 @ 4:41pm

        Re: Re: Improving the Interface.

        Also, there isn't any inefficiency in connecting inventors to manufacturers in the absence of patents, so I'm not sure why you need a separate system to facilitate it.

        This is where I see NPEs being unambiguously useful: an independent inventor has a fantastic idea; however, he just doesn't have the means to bootstrap the invention himself, and no one will listen to him....except the NPE. He gets paid for his idea, the public benefits from the product, the corporation that licenses the patent makes money from the product, etc. Everyone wins! Doesn't this happen sometimes?

        That's only true (again) if you overvalue the importance of the idea part.

        I guess this is the divide.

        If you take requests, I'd be very interested to read your opinion on the role of Big Pharma in all of this. It seems pretty plain to me that pharmaceutical companies get screwed if patent strength is weakened. This is a bad thing, agreed? How do you deal with the issues you see with the current system without harming the innovators within this industry?

         

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          Mike (profile), May 15th, 2008 @ 5:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: Improving the Interface.

          This is where I see NPEs being unambiguously useful: an independent inventor has a fantastic idea; however, he just doesn't have the means to bootstrap the invention himself, and no one will listen to him....except the NPE. He gets paid for his idea, the public benefits from the product, the corporation that licenses the patent makes money from the product, etc. Everyone wins! Doesn't this happen sometimes?

          No, everyone does not win. Because in actually bringing a product to market, companies will soon discover (again) that the idea itself isn't really important. They're going to make changes to the idea, respond to the market, adjust and keep trying and changing. The final product will almost never resemble the original idea. So why focus so much on the original idea.

          As for independent inventors, why not get associated with a group who can actually implement the product. Then as they go through that implementation learning process, the original inventor can be a part of the discussion. I just don't see why you should separate the idea from the implementation.

          If you take requests, I'd be very interested to read your opinion on the role of Big Pharma in all of this. It seems pretty plain to me that pharmaceutical companies get screwed if patent strength is weakened. This is a bad thing, agreed? How do you deal with the issues you see with the current system without harming the innovators within this industry?

          I've written a bit about it in the past, but am working on a much longer post about it, that probably won't be done for two or three weeks or so. While I agree that *current* pharma companies may get weakened, I don't see that as a problem. First off, Levine & Boldrin show that it's clearly false that pharma needs patents, with their study on Italy. Italy had a thriving and very competitive pharma industry that was developing new compounds -- all without patents. Once patents were put in place, the opposite of what you think would happen happened. The industry collapsed. There were fewer patent companies, new drug developments did not increase and the industry itself shrunk.

          The other key point is that "pharma" has distorted the actual market: which should be making people healthy. The pharma industry (thanks to patents) has unfortunately brought the focus of R&D money into what's patentable, rather than what's the best solution to making people healthy.

          Take a look at Andy Kessler's book and Merrill Goozner's book to understand how pharma companies are often making it much *more* difficult to create new products and businesses that actually do make people healthier.

          Patents have distorted the healthcare market in a dangerous way. I don't mean that drugs are bad, but that the incentive structure we have currently basically takes R&D money away from non-pharma solutions, and gives incentives for pharmas to game the system for monopoly rents, rather than for creating solutions that actually make people healthy.

           

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            Nicole, May 16th, 2008 @ 11:04am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Improving the Interface.

            As for independent inventors, why not get associated with a group who can actually implement the product. Then as they go through that implementation learning process, the original inventor can be a part of the discussion. I just don't see why you should separate the idea from the implementation.

            What groups are these?

            I've written a bit about it in the past, but am working on a much longer post about it, that probably won't be done for two or three weeks or so.

            Looking forward to it.

             

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    Nate Nead, May 15th, 2008 @ 11:28am

    Oh Ideas,

    Agreed. I have ideas all the time that I know would be "the next million dollar idea." However, I may only be alive for another 50 years....that's a problem. We can't do everything.

     

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    MLS, May 15th, 2008 @ 11:43am

    Ideas are not "inventions"

    One of the recurring themes I see in posts/comments at this site is the assumption that patent law is directed to simply "ideas", and this in turn enables the "idea" person to somehow exert untoward control.

    Yes, everyone has ideas, but this is not the starting point of patent law. It starts with what is termed a "conception" of an invention (which is far more than a mere idea...it is a formulation of a complete and operative embodiment) and concludes with "reduction to practice". Reduction to practice can be either "actual" (you build it and test if for efficacy) or "constructive" (you describe it in a patent application is detail sufficient to enable a person having skill in the art to actually reduce it to practice without having to engage in undue experimentation).

    Once conception and reduction to practice are complete, only then does patent law "kick in" should an inventor decide pursuing a patent is an appropriate course of action.

    Obviously other skill sets are needed to get an invention to market, including productization, marketing, financing, etc. My sole point with this comments is to note that a mere idea is not what patent law is all about. It is the start of a process and nothing more. Moreover, patent law requires much more than a mere idea before one can even avail himself of whatever benefits the law may have to offer.

     

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      Nicole, May 15th, 2008 @ 11:49am

      Re: Ideas are not "inventions"

      Excellent point! I would urge those that aren't verse in patent law to take a dip into reading on some of these concepts.

       

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      Mike (profile), May 15th, 2008 @ 1:10pm

      Re: Ideas are not "inventions"

      One of the recurring themes I see in posts/comments at this site is the assumption that patent law is directed to simply "ideas", and this in turn enables the "idea" person to somehow exert untoward control.

      You are playing a semantic game if you don't think that patents are being used to protect ideas.

      Yes, everyone has ideas, but this is not the starting point of patent law. It starts with what is termed a "conception" of an invention (which is far more than a mere idea...it is a formulation of a complete and operative embodiment) and concludes with "reduction to practice". Reduction to practice can be either "actual" (you build it and test if for efficacy) or "constructive" (you describe it in a patent application is detail sufficient to enable a person having skill in the art to actually reduce it to practice without having to engage in undue experimentation).

      This is the ideal world. In practice, even you must admit that this is *not* how the patent system functions.

       

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        MLS, May 15th, 2008 @ 2:28pm

        Re: Re: Ideas are not "inventions"

        This is not a game of semantics. Ideas per se are not protectable under patent law. Implementation of the idea can be protectable provided that the implementation comprises statutory subject matter and is useful (35 USC 101), is new (35 USC 102), is non-obvious (35 USC 103), and is described in sufficient detail for one skilled in the art to practice (35 USC 112).

        No patent can ever issue absent a conception and a reduction to practice. Otherwise there is no invention to protect under patent law since the conditions precedent have not been met. This is how the real world operates.

         

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          John Wilson, May 16th, 2008 @ 7:32am

          Re: Re: Re: Ideas are not

          Reduction to practice can be either "actual" (you build it and test if for efficacy) or "constructive" (you describe it in a patent application is detail sufficient to enable a person having skill in the art to actually reduce it to practice without having to engage in undue experimentation).

          Adding a "constructive" reduction to the list is where the whole thing starts to go wrong. All one does in doing that is to describe the idea over again in more technical terms in how it might work as something actual.

          Case in point. Telephony was described as ideas long before Bell actually built one. Remember, too, that what he was looking for was something to help the deaf not to facilitate over-the-wire voice communication. That was coincidental and he recognized it for what it was. That he made it to the US Patent Office before another man who had come up with virtually the same product is beside the point.

          What both solved, in essence, was the transmitter of the telephone set. Loudspeakers, the receiver in a phone, were well known before either man built a telephone.

          Neither one would have succeeded or, perhaps, even attempted their work had there been a "constructive" patent laying about in Washington or London that said "if you do this you might just come up with my idea in a way that's practical so remember I own your work now".

          The idea itself is, in shorthand, the "Eureka" part. As has been said we all have them. Most of them are, beyond that, pretty much useless because we'll do nothing with them.

          As far as I can see the "constructive" description in a patent application is nothing more than "Eureka" thought out a bit more and described in more detail. It is not an actual product built on the idea.

          Nothing should be patentable in the absence of an actual working product. Until that point is reached there is, for all practical purposes, an invention.

          As to the distortions that are introduced into the marketplace by patents and (now almost) perpetual copyrights they do nothing at all to encourage innovation on top of the IP in question. Pharma is perfect example where the patent holder will change, ever so slightly, the formulation of a drug to extend the patent which does nothing to improve the efficacy of the drug and, certainly, nothing to reduce the end price to the consumer.

          In the same way that ideas are not "inventions" a so-called constructive description of the idea is not an "invention".

           

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    mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 11:44am

    Another Mikebob troll

    Ideas are easy, it execution that hard.

    Well why bother with new ideas at all, why not just keep re-executing the same old tired crap. Oh wait that's actually what you do, isn't it Mikebob. This from a guy who is a self described "A Visionary".

    I actually joined Cambrian House when it first got started. While it's true they had many ideas you really couldn't say many of them were very good. So reasonable to say bad ideas are worthless, it's definitely not the case for good ones though. Of course the initial goal was to come up with new product ideas. Which is a small subset of all possible ideas.

    There are lots of different areas for new ideas. Some will open up whole new markets while others will improve current products. If you crowd source, it wouldn't be surprising that you would get a lot of tired old obvious ideas. But lumping all ideas in a single bucket is a typical Mikebob troll. Have to keep that traffic up, eh Mikebob.

    Another problem with Cambrian House was the filter they used to decide which ideas to try to implement. By crowd sourcing it they pretty much guaranteed that the simplest and easiest to understand ideas would get picked. As far as implementing, it had a pyramid scheme feel to it, so it really felt like you would work your ass off and the people who started Cambrian House would be the ones to benefit if there was any benefit to be had at all, give how the ideas were picked. For people who were good developers why not just implement your own idea and cut Cambrian house out of it completely. After all you were taking all the risk anyway.

    Which is one of the reasons why implementation is so difficult. The people running the show, despite saying implementation is hard, don't reward the people doing the implementation. I'm sure most would be just as happy outsourcing it to the lowest cost developers possible.

    We have yet another message board creator selling incredibly lame analysis being a visionary and people who come up with things like GMR being dopes. Oh year, this is the guy I want setting IP policy for the country.

     

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      mobiGeek, May 15th, 2008 @ 12:41pm

      Re: Another Mikebob troll

      No one said ideas are worthless. But they are aplenty and because of this having a system to limit people executing on ideas is pretty ridiculous.

      There are a bunch of near-future ideas that many of us could conceive today. Should we sit down, write up mostly straight-forward yet broad speak ideas for it and thereby stop others from evolving our society? (Or at least, forcing those who do the work to pay us because we wrote our ideas/conceptions on a napkin and mailed them in?)

       

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    Anonymous of Course, May 15th, 2008 @ 12:10pm

    It's a bald faced fact.

    Ow! How the facts hurt. I work as a consulting engineer. Over the years I've built some pretty neat stuff for people
    that had their million dollar idea.

    I've had some million dollar ideas myself but they seemed
    like too much work to implement. I'm risk adverse so I'd
    rather be paid by someone for working on their idea. It's
    just as much fun over the long haul but the rewards do
    diminish with diminishing risk.

    Some of the best ideas are stymied from being brought
    forth as products due to the enormous expenses of
    associated research, agency compliance, design costs
    that include but are not limited to tooling and fixturing,
    industrial design (how it looks and feels,) packaging,
    purchasing materials and fabrication.

    Sometimes there are technological barriers that require
    research and development to cross if possible. Many
    great ideas simply aren't feasible or practical to
    implement at the present time. Although I'd argue that
    if there's too great a hurdle it's not such a great idea
    to begin with.

    It takes a person dedicated to their million dollar
    idea to bring it to fruition. Few people, including
    myself, have what it takes.

    For some it's easier to have the idea then blame any
    failure on a corporate conspiracy rather that admit
    to an inherent laziness.

    The idea /is/ the easy part.

     

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      mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 12:37pm

      Re: It's a bald faced fact.

      If the idea is the easy part why are there so many bad ideas out there then?

      If implementation is so hard then why do so many companies who do it bother to implement such bad ideas.

      Why is it necessary for someone with a good idea to have to devote so much time, effort and money to non idea producing activities to be rewarded for a truly good idea?

      The answer, because there are a lot of rent seekers out there who prevent it. Rent seekers include Mikebob's favorite, patent trolls but it also includes large companies who use patented ideas without rewarding the inventor. It includes businesses who are more concerned with maximizing short term profits then added to long term value. It also include people like Mikebob who knowingly put out rediculious ideas for personal gain.

      Having consulted to companies large and small, I've often come away wondering how anything gets done at all.

       

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        mobiGeek, May 15th, 2008 @ 12:47pm

        Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

        Why is it necessary for someone with a good idea to have to devote so much time, effort and money to non idea producing activities to be rewarded for a truly good idea?

        Because the people that do the work deserve the bigger payoff?

        Because there are often many people with the same idea?

        The system today rewards the first person to the post office, not the first person who actually does the work of executing on that idea.

        Why should someone who risks very little (think, write, apply) deserve more (any?) than the person who risks lots by investing in developing, prototyping, marketing, producing and selling?

         

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          Helmüt DuBois, May 15th, 2008 @ 1:15pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

          Gee, I always thought that "working smart" was better than "working hard". But I guess there might be something to be said for those Puritanical values. After all it does work for some folks... like the Amish. Toil, toil, toil and ye shall be rewarded.

           

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            mobiGeek, May 15th, 2008 @ 7:11pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

            Are you saying that you think the first-to-the-post-office people are working smart? They aren't working at all!

            Who deserves the good grade: the kid who worked out a given math problem or the kid who Googled the answer?

            Who invented Calculus? Leibniz, Newton, or a host of other mathematicians around the world all of whom built on the work of others?

             

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              mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 9:21pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

              mobiGeek wrote:
              Are you saying that you think the first-to-the-post-office people are working smart? They aren't working at all!

              mjr1007 replied:
              If you are talking about invent verses product then let me tell you another story. One Mikebob doesn't talk about. A U of Wisconsin research claims to have come up with a great idea on how to increase Instruction Level Parallelism (ILP) in microprocessors. The researcher actually presented to Intel. Intel decided it was easier to just use the idea and not licenses it. Now this is all from the researchers side but the patent was issued so there is at least some evidence it happened this way.

              Now here is a case where a research had no hope of building their won Microprocessor company but he did make a very useful bit of progress to the useful arts and sciences. Surely you would think he deserved to be rewarded.

              Who deserves the good grade: the kid who worked out a given math problem or the kid who Googled the answer?

              Who invented Calculus? Leibniz, Newton, or a host of other mathematicians around the world all of whom built on the work of others?

               

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                Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2008 @ 4:04am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

                Now here is a case where a research had no hope of building their won Microprocessor company but he did make a very useful bit of progress to the useful arts and sciences. Surely you would think he deserved to be rewarded.

                Why should he be rewarded for an idea he didn't do anything with? If I have the idea for the greatest fast food restaurant in the world, but do nothing with it, more power to McDonalds for actually making it work. If you don't do anything with your ideas, you don't deserve the rewards taken away from those who actually do put in the effort.

                You are also going back to the false assumption that these ideas are unique and no one else would have discovered it soon enough (if they hadn't already).

                 

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          mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 1:41pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

          Mjr1007 wrote:
          Why is it necessary for someone with a good idea to have to devote so much time, effort and money to non idea producing activities to be rewarded for a truly good idea?

          MobiGeek replied:
          Because the people that do the work deserve the bigger payoff?

          Mjr1007 replied:
          This is almost never the case though. The investors are the one's who get the biggest payoff. The people doing the work get far less. Do we want a nation of rich investors or a nation with lots of ideas. The constitution of the US says “in order to promote progress in the useful arts and sciences”, not in order to have the richest investors. As it stand now, the investors are gatekeepers and do a great job of keeping most people out.

          There is another basic assumption here which I don't believe is true. That is coming up with good ideas and following through to the patentable stage is trivial/easy. The prior art search alone is a pain in the ass. Having to read so many bad ideas in the form of academic papers and patents, and figure out why they won't work, well it mind boggling. But that actually pales in comparison to actually coming up with a really good idea and taking it to the patentable stage.

          Having said that, I will admit there are a lot of bad patents out there which never should have been granted. Anyone knowledgeable in the field would have reject the idea immediately. Which is why compulsory licensing with an overall fixed percentage for the pool seems like the best way to promote progress. People could file whatever lousy patent they want, if no one actually uses it, then it won't really matter.

          As far as the people doing the work, it would be a piss poor allocation of scarce resources, see how I through in the economic jargon Mikebob, to reinvent the wheel. Most of the good development people I know, look for good, existing algorithms to implement before going off to invent new ones. Inventing good algorithms is not nearly as easy as some on this site would have you believe. The whole point of promoting progress is to encourage people to publish these really good ideas so those who are better at implementing can spend their time doing what they are good at. It's a win win. It's also a division of labor, different people all doing what they are good at to produce a product, not because they have your best interest at heart, but because they have their own.

          Maybe you experience is different. Maybe you work with implementors who spend most of their time coming up with new algorithms, but it is a slow time consuming process, at least for good ones.

          Mobigeek wrote:
          Because there are often many people with the same idea?

          Mjr1007 replied:
          There are often many people with the same bad idea as well. Just as I would not reward bad ideas I also would not reward obvious ones either. But how about rewarding those truly great ones?

          Mobigeek wrote:
          The system today rewards the first person to the post office, not the first person who actually does the work of executing on that idea.

          Mjr1007 replied:
          Not sure how to read this. Is this a first to file verses a first to invent issue or is it a patent verses product issue?

          Mobigeek wrote:
          Why should someone who risks very little (think, write, apply) deserve more (any?) than the person who risks lots by investing in developing, prototyping, marketing, producing and selling?

          Mjr1007 replied:
          I get this a lot, the greater the risk the greater the reward. It only makes sense if you want to encourage adrenaline junkies, it has nothing to do with promoting progress in the useful arts and sciences. If you would like to encourage risk taking behavior then try getting a constitutional amendment, at least in the US, which states “in order to promote risk taking ...”. Put in that light it sounds kind of silly doesn't it. Which is why I told Mikebob he should start of each of these post with that clause. It might eliminate some of the red herrings.

           

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            Nasch, May 16th, 2008 @ 12:34pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

            I get this a lot, the greater the risk the greater the reward. It only makes sense if you want to encourage adrenaline junkies, it has nothing to do with promoting progress in the useful arts and sciences. If you would like to encourage risk taking behavior then try getting a constitutional amendment, at least in the US, which states “in order to promote risk taking ...”. Put in that light it sounds kind of silly doesn't it. Which is why I told Mikebob he should start of each of these post with that clause. It might eliminate some of the red herrings.

            His point is that something that has little or no risk (coming up with ideas) doesn't need to be encouraged or protected - people are going to do that no matter what. The question is whether we need to protect risky ventures in order to ensure progress. And keep in mind that patents are not supposed to be about making sure inventors get paid. They're supposed to encourage progress for the whole society.

            My opinion is even the risky stuff needs little or no protection. If there's a market for something, somebody is going to take the risk to try to bring a product to that market. If there is no market for it, then a patent would not serve any purpose anyway*. First mover advantage is known to be quite substantial in general - I think patent protection should be very short, if it needs to exist at all.

            * this doesn't mean we don't need that thing, whatever it is, only that a patent is not the way to encourage it

             

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              mjr1007, May 16th, 2008 @ 2:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

              mjr1007 wrote:
              I get this a lot, the greater the risk the greater the reward. It only makes sense if you want to encourage adrenaline junkies, it has nothing to do with promoting progress in the useful arts and sciences. If you would like to encourage risk taking behavior then try getting a constitutional amendment, at least in the US, which states “in order to promote risk taking ...”. Put in that light it sounds kind of silly doesn't it. Which is why I told Mikebob he should start of each of these post with that clause. It might eliminate some of the red herrings.

              Nasch replied:
              His point is that something that has little or no risk (coming up with ideas) doesn't need to be encouraged or protected - people are going to do that no matter what. The question is whether we need to protect risky ventures in order to ensure progress. And keep in mind that patents are not supposed to be about making sure inventors get paid. They're supposed to encourage progress for the whole society.

              mjr1007 replied:
              People will come up with ideas so let's not worry about it. Ideas are not progress in science. This is the all birds are not cardinals problem. While all progress comes form ideas, not all ideas are progress. There are lots of bad ideas which will never lead to progress. A remote control for a sissy electric start motorcycle is not progress. Yes people will come up with all sorts of brain dead ideas, the patent system should not protect that. Put progress, really progress is quite rare.

              Take the Intel example that I've been flogging. If good ideas about ILP were so very easy, why did Intel need to steal someone else's? Why not just invent something else just as good or even better?

              Why has ILP stalled at less then 10 instructions per clock cycle. This stuff is really easy right. People can do this stuff in their sleep. The score boarding required to even get to where we are today is incredibly difficult and complex. To think this just happens, can only be said with a straight face, by someone who isn't doing it.

              If this stuff is so easy why are companies getting out of Basic Research. Why, because it's hard and expensive.

              Your opinions just don't jive with the facts.

              Nasch
              My opinion is even the risky stuff needs little or no protection. If there's a market for something, somebody is going to take the risk to try to bring a product to that market. If there is no market for it, then a patent would not serve any purpose anyway*. First mover advantage is known to be quite substantial in general - I think patent protection should be very short, if it needs to exist at all.

              * this doesn't mean we don't need that thing, whatever it is, only that a patent is not the way to encourage it

              mjr1007 replied:
              We may actually agree here. Patents are not the way to get new products, they are the way to promote progress in science. Two similar but not identical concepts. All of your comments about companies producing products are irrelevant for the patent system.

              As it turns out though with compulsory licensing new products would flow out because the development cost will be much lower and equal for all manufactures.

               

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                Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2008 @ 1:25am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

                > There are lots of bad ideas which will never lead to progress. A remote control for a sissy electric start motorcycle is not progress. Yes people will come up with all sorts of brain dead ideas, the patent system should not protect that. Put progress, really progress is quite rare.

                Ahhhhhhhhh. now i get it. the answer is to put mjr in charge of figuring out what is and what is not progress, and then he decides what gets protected.

                brilliant. you should have just said so.

                 

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                  mjr1007, May 17th, 2008 @ 7:48am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

                  An Ac rhetoric was:
                  Ahhhhhhhhh. now i get it. the answer is to put mjr in charge of figuring out what is and what is not progress, and then he decides what gets protected.

                  brilliant. you should have just said so.

                  mjr1007:
                  Very nice, two rhetorical devices in one reply. Personal attack and straw man, very nice indeed. Nice rhetoric, but lousy reasoning.

                  What I did say was to let people knowledgeable in the field decide which patent they would use when working on their products. You know let the implementors, your hero's, decide what is garbage, like your comments, and what is actually useful.

                  Many good engineers believe that following journals and patents is part of their job, so they can keep up with current technology. I know it's all that techie stuff, yuk.

                  So tell me Mr. AC, exactly how do you have progress in science without actually doing that techie stuff?

                  This is just so sad. If the best you've got is to use such obvious rhetoric to try to win you point then it should be clear to anyone reading this that your point of view is not worth the electrons needed to render it. I actually like lively informed debate, this on the other hand is just so much nonsense. If that is the best you've got then it is better to be thought a fool then to open your mouth (keep posting) and assure everyone.

                   

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        Hank, May 15th, 2008 @ 1:36pm

        Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

        well, mjr1007, I believe they stated "The idea /is/ the easy part." not that good ideas were the easy part. Why you think the development is any easier with a good idea than a bad idea I have yet to figure out.

        The basis of the comment was that the work that goes into developing a product from the idea is the hard part.

        For example, I have an idea to create a remote starter for my motorcycle, but I haven't developed it (mainly because I don't have a clue where to start and I'm fairly lazy). Should I be able to get a patent for it? I can completely describe the system on paper but I don't know for sure if it will work because I haven't built it. Can I patent the idea and then wait for someone else to do the work and sue them when it comes out? The idea, whether good or bad, was fairly easy to come up with, thinking of how to make it work was a little harder, but I still haven't built anything or spent any money which is where the difficulty comes in.

        Let's get real here, the people being rewarded should be the ones putting in the blood, sweat, and tears. 99.999999% of ideas aren't in any way original. I can guarantee you that anything you think up right now has already been thought of and is being thought of by someone else at the same time.

         

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          mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 2:14pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

          Hank wrote:
          well, mjr1007, I believe they stated "The idea /is/ the easy part." not that good ideas were the easy part. Why you think the development is any easier with a good idea than a bad idea I have yet to figure out.

          Mjr1007 replied:
          Spoken like a true non developer. Implementing a bad design is much much more difficult then implementing a good one. Remember, not all ideas/patents are for new products.

          Hank wrote:
          The basis of the comment was that the work that goes into developing a product from the idea is the hard part.

          For example, I have an idea to create a remote starter for my motorcycle, but I haven't developed it (mainly because I don't have a clue where to start and I'm fairly lazy). Should I be able to get a patent for it? I can completely describe the system on paper but I don't know for sure if it will work because I haven't built it. Can I patent the idea and then wait for someone else to do the work and sue them when it comes out? The idea, whether good or bad, was fairly easy to come up with, thinking of how to make it work was a little harder, but I still haven't built anything or spent any money which is where the difficulty comes in.

          Let's get real here, the people being rewarded should be the ones putting in the blood, sweat, and tears. 99.999999% of ideas aren't in any way original. I can guarantee you that anything you think up right now has already been thought of and is being thought of by someone else at the same time.

          Mjr1007 replied:
          I would add that not only are you fairly lazy, but foolish as well. First off it's impossible to have an automatic starter for a motorcycle unless your one of those sissies who can't kick start their bikes and needs an electric starter. Second it's an obvious idea that anyone knowledgeable in the art would recognize. For those too lazy to even Google it here is a web page for cars.

          http://www.megatronixusa.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=M&Category_Co de=STARTER

          It an obvious move to a sissy bike with an electric starter.

          Hank, I want to thank you for making my point. All ideas are not good, original or non-obvious. Yours, and many more like them are not deserving of any protection, not even copyright for the writing of it.

          Since we are giving examples let me try one. I was interested in a sort algorithm for a SIMD array. One of the good ones is bitonic. I was looking at a paper by some IBM folks who implemented this algorithm for the cell processor. They enhanced and extended it as well. See how this works. Rather then create a completely new sort from scratch they looked at the prior art and found one. Unlike some obvious sorts, like merge sort or radix sort, the bitonic sort is definitely non-obvious. I haven't finished reading the original paper but it certainly doesn't look like it's the sort of thing that just popped into his head with no work or effort.

          Do you see the difference between you silly electric motorcycle starter and the bitonic sort? Lumping the two together is just lazy and foolish.

           

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            Hank, May 15th, 2008 @ 2:42pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

            LOL, you kill me with your arguments.

            First, take pop shots at me all you like and call me a "sissy" for having a bike with an electric starter, but 99% of road bikes sold today have electric starters, and have been manufactured with electric starters for some time now. So, a remote starter for a motorcycle would be something that most riders today could use. Whether they would or not, I don't know as I haven't done a shred of market research.

            Second, the site you provide a link to is for "car" remote starters. This isn't such an easy, cut and dry, thing to create for a bike. There are multiple safe guards in place on motorcycles to keep from starting or killing your engine at the wrong time. As far as I know, there aren't yet remote starters for bikes.

            Third, why does an idea have to be super techy and have to do with algorithms to be a good idea? Did I attack you personally? No. Why the personal attack on me? Do you not have an intelligent argument to counteract mine?
            I used the example of the remote starter because it's a simple, clear, example. Honestly I don't have the slightest clue about your "sorts" so your point was lost in your tech speak. Good try thought, I'll give you an A for effort.

             

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              Hank, May 15th, 2008 @ 2:58pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

              By the way, I'm not claiming to be the only person to ever think of this so don't get bogged down in what my idea was. I'm also not claiming that it's a fantastic or superb idea. I also don't think I should be able to patent it without building a working model first.

              If you can get all that out of the way you should be able to see my point

               

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                mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 3:45pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

                If we take out the fact that it's a lousy idea not worthy of protection, then whether or not you've created a working model is pointless.

                If you actually read patent applications you would see that reducing it to practice, even for computer programs, requires a hell of a lot more then saying "a remote starter for motorcycles".

                Here's a though, why don't you read through some patents on a topic you do understand and see what you think about the reduce to practice requirement. I could suggest some real doozies for you, but there all in the dreaded high tech area.

                 

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                  mobiGeek, May 15th, 2008 @ 7:37pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

                  Honestly, do we need to post links to patent applications that are completely contrary to your "hell of a lot more" comment?

                  You showing a couple of examples of hard-to-come-up-with ideas does not show that the patent system is working. Our showing a couple of overly-simplistic or brutally-obvious does show that the patent system is broken.

                   

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                    mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 8:53pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

                    Actually the discussion here is not whether or not there are problems with the patent system, clearly there are, you will get absolutely no argument from me on that.

                    The topic under discussion here is "ideas are easy". You won't even get a argument from me that bad ideas are easy, clearly they are. Really good ideas, on the other hand, are usually quite hard. Particularly if we are talking about reducing them to practice. From my previous example, hey lets build a time machine, easy and utterly worthless. Here are the equations necessary to build a time machine, difficult and important.

                    As I've commented previously on other articles, the patent system is in desperate need of repair, just don't through out the baby with the bath water. It's critical that we promote the progress of the useful arts and sciences. The whole monopoly thing is no longer workable, but compulsory licensing with a low percentage for all patents seem like it would be a good start.

                    Lets not say the patent system is broken and therefore we will end it. There you go, not so unreasonable after all.

                     

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              mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 3:35pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's a bald faced fact.

              A little thin skinned aren't we Hank. Back in the day we always kidded around about kick start verses electric. If I threatened your manhood, or womanhood, in this day an age Hank could be short for Henrieta, it wasn't my intent.

              I know the site was for cars, which is why the line above the URL said

              "For those too lazy to even Google it here is a web page for cars"

              Since you've already admitted to being lazy I hope you won't get all weepy on me again. Gees, your almost as bad as Mikebob. You sound a little like him too. No that would be too much even for Mikebob.

              There is an obvious difference between bikes and cars. But the idea is easily abstracted out from either or both. The implementation may require some serious work even something novel enough to be patented but the idea of a remote starter for a bike, today, is quite obvious.

              As to why I picked a high tech idea like a bitonic sort. As you pointed out many of the common ones, like a remote bike starter, are not deserving of protection. However if one goes into new technological areas there is still plenty of opportunity to create novel inventions.

              The fact that you didn't understand the example and have no intention of learning about it demonstrates why you are ill equipped to even discuss this topic. If you really think that taking an idea that is already a commercial product for cars and say, why don't we do it for motorcycles is a what patents are all about, then further discussion on your part would be pointless. I mean really, what's next, remote starters for lawnmowers, or chainsaws?

              The example was not for rhetoric effect, it was to show that there is a huge difference between bad ideas not worthy of the electrons needed to render them and good ideas that can create whole new industries. We have far too many of the formal and far too few of the latter. Which is why the latter should be promoted.

               

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    Dave, May 15th, 2008 @ 1:41pm

    Face it

    An idea without execution is a dream...

    Vision and Mechanics are a 90/10 split, with 90% being the vision.

    Execution without an idea, is masturbation.

    The 2 are important, but the idae is more so.

    Before the flame war starts, I don't agree with the patent trolls either. Try working out a win/win!

     

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    Geoffrey Kidd (profile), May 15th, 2008 @ 2:50pm

    As usual, science fiction got here first. :)

    In the May, 1963 issue of Analog there was a story titled Philosopher's Stone by Christopher Anvil wherein he made pretty much the same point.

    In the course of the story, we find out that the British are essentially conquering the universe by handing out peerages to the people who are actually in the trade of bringing new inventions into common use. There are compensations required for the people who actually come up with the ideas, including money, royalties, etc. but the really big rewards go to the people with the perseverance to put the ideas to work.

     

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    Nicholas Iler, May 15th, 2008 @ 3:54pm

    Require Execution Before Patent Consideration

    I would say that any one with or without a brain can come up with a genius idea but it may take a true genius to facilitate it through the design phase.

     

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    mjr1007, May 15th, 2008 @ 4:45pm

    Time travel

    This may help in the discussion, it may not, who knows.

    There was an NPR story about a physicist who spent over 20 years of his life trying to come up with a way to travel back in time. It seems he actually succeed, on a theoretical level. The story ended with him presenting to a group of physicist and one of the giants in the field being quite impressed.

    This is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about. Any knucklehead can say, "lets build a machine to travel back in time". That is not deserving of patent protection. But the theoretical work this fellow did sure sounds like it should be. Does this make the difference clear. Even though he doesn't have a time machine, his work for most of his adult life provide the theoretical underpinnings for it.

    Of course it would be nice if he would then license it to any all who were interested. But that's a different discussion. This discussion is about how this very good idea was not at all easy.

     

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    SystemsThinker, May 15th, 2008 @ 4:57pm

    Coincidence?

    Steve Pavlina just wrote about this recently.

     

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    A. Rational Human, May 15th, 2008 @ 5:39pm

    What is an idea?

    angry dude,

    E=mc^2 is not an idea. Its a conclusion drawn from a very fundamental theory about how an important part of reality works. Many pages of math and multiple connections to numerous physical laws, that took decades of effort to discover, are required to demonstrate the validity of the equation. This actually comes much closer to the constructive proof allowed by patents than a mere idea. However, to turn it into a useful product: a bomb, power plant, or power source for an aircraft carrier takes a lot more than just the the equation and the many pages of math to prove the equation describes reality.

    An idea is just some random notion that just pops into someone's head. It may or may not be a good one. The only way to be sure its a good one is to make it real, market it, and sell it for cash. At least make the damn thing work rather than leaving it as bar room beer talk.

    Getting an idea is cheap and stupidly easy. You can have a hundred before breakfast without breaking a sweat. One out of a thousand may be worth taking further. One out of a thousand of those might even be worth building. The making it real part is orders more difficult than just getting an idea.

     

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    Little Punk, May 15th, 2008 @ 6:29pm

    I'm confused ... a liitle help here please

    I thought that you were not allowed to patent, copyright or trademark facts.
    Isn't E=mc^2 considered a fact ?

    Or maybe I misunderstood the intention of the original post.

     

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    Ian Ward-Bolton, May 16th, 2008 @ 2:57am

    Yes, ideas are easy

    As an ideas man myself, I agree that they are easy. One minute you don't have an idea, the next you do. Do I really deserve to be paid millions via a patent for a really good idea that just came to me? I say "No!" For one thing, I actually enjoy having the ideas, so that's a good enough reward in itself.

    "But how do you propose to earn a living then?" I hear you ask. Well, I currently do a job that pays enough to cover my bills, which has very little to do with generating ideas - I have them in my spare time, for fun, and they are usually related to things I have experienced in the real world, which I am forced to take part in because I am not making millions from my ideas and living in a hedonistic fantasy world.

    The main problem I have is that I do not know what to do with my ideas. Each one I have is another potential solution to a real-world problem, which just requires someone else to implement, and I am feeling burdened by them. My current thinking is to just put my ideas out there and hope someone picks them up and exploits them for the benefit of mankind, but the ideal outcome would be to be employed as an Ideas Man, being paid in advance for future ideas that I generate for my employer. I expect a lot of this time would be totally fruitless, but occasionally I will come up with something really good. This fits nicely with my philosophy that we should be paid in proportion to effort (i.e. time spent), rather than what is output.

     

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    Wesley Parish, May 16th, 2008 @ 5:52am

    Why do I have these lines reverberating in my head?

    I heard him then, for I had just
    Completed my design
    To keep the Menai bridge from rust
    By boiling it in wine.
    I thanked him much for telling me
    The way he got his wealth,
    But chiefly for his wish that he
    Might drink my noble health.

    Lewis Carroll, The White Knight's Song.

    I get ideas all the time. Most of them relate to stories I am writing, or trying to write; some of them relate to thing I want to do; others are things to chuckle over.

    Even in writing stories, I have to balance the idea with actually writing it down. It's very, very easy to have an idea about an individual's time lines splitting on every decision or non-decision made or avoided; it is very difficult to make an enjoyable story out of it.

    Boiling the Menai Bridge in wine is easy compared with writing a believable story about time lines that can split and spill out like pickup sticks - so I haven't. I'm trying something a little bit different. And it's not the only art, craft or science with that either - just ask your local friendly muso about the difficulty of composing new music.

     

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    mjr1007, May 16th, 2008 @ 6:52am

    All ideas are not created equal

    I have to say, these are some of the stupidest post I've ever seen, and I thought Mikebob was bad, but some people posting here have got to be denser the lead.

    The basic rhetoric being used here is:
    all ideas are the same,
    it's easy to come up with stupid ideas,
    therefore no ideas should be reward.

    Once more from the top.

    Article I Section VIII clause 8

    To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

    This is the basis for the patent system. Nowhere does it say to promote lame ideas or products. Come on people this really can't be all that difficult. The reason that good examples of patents are science and technology related is because, wait for it, IT'S WHAT THE U.S. CONSTITUTION SAYS.

    Here is a very simple adage that I use in my professional life which helps a lot and is surprisingly infrequently followed by most "WHEN IN DOUBT, READ THE DIRECTIONS".

    In this case that would be, again wait for it, THE CONSTITUTION, at least for those of us here in the states.

    By misrepresenting any lame idea with no hope of ever actually being implemented with PROGRESS IN SCIENCE AND THE USEFUL ARTS, you get to bicker endlessly about stupid ideas not worth the electrons needed to render them.

    Lets go over just a few of the idiotic examples currently in these comments. I hope that those of you who are not held up to public ridicule in this post won't feel left out, that would be you Mikebob, but time is limited and there seems to be, at least on this web site, and endless, but not infinite, supply of morons.

    Turning on a sissy motorcycle from a distance, incredibly not progress.

    Coming up with a way to increase Instruction Level Parallelism (ILP) in microprocessor, PROGRESS.

    Now for the idea man. I absolutely shutter to think what ideas he actually has. If they are, as I suspect, along the lines of: "hey lets build a time machine", then there is a very good reason for him not making a living from creating ideas. But I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Why don't you just trot out some of those brain storms of your's. It should be easy enough to judge.

    I'll even kick of the idea party with a few that I've had in the past. Of course I will be accused of getting all TECHIE on people. But it truly is hard to see how you can promote progress in science without getting technical.

    The first one was utilizing a modified binomial decomposition to speed up the microcode for a 17 bit multiply on a massively parallel Single Instruction Multiple Data (SIMD) array of 1 bit processing elements with eight bit co-processors. It dropped the multiplication time from 51 clock cycles to 37. Which was sufficient to process the radar data in real time.

    The next one is in free text search. To resolve issues of lexical ambiguity (polysemy) the use of co-occurrence words were use. An example here would be the word tank. It could mean anything from a military armor, to a place to store liquids, to a type of tee shirt and more.

    In the first case the people at the company who were charge with writing and maintaining the microcode thought it was novel. That would be people knowledgeable in the art. In the second case it won a government Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant. It was also touted some years later by a different company as being a breakthrough.

    Since both of these occurred before I went out on my own, they were works for hire, I saw nothing from it. I left the second company shortly after the award so I wasn't there to drive the research. Which brings me to another topic of Mikebob's. Scientist and engineers are not fungible, at least the good ones aren't. Once I left the company with the free text award, they merely assigned someone to continue to run the grant but never really made progress.

    OK, hopefully that has set the bar somewhat higher the motorcycles or lawnmowers with remote starters. People, stay on topic, Progress in science.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2008 @ 8:32am

      Re: All ideas are not created equal

      The basic rhetoric being used here is:
      all ideas are the same,
      it's easy to come up with stupid ideas,
      therefore no ideas should be reward.


      What a demented summary

       

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        mjr1007, May 16th, 2008 @ 9:08am

        Re: Re: All ideas are not created equal

        mjr1007 wrote:
        The basic rhetoric being used here is:
        all ideas are the same,
        it's easy to come up with stupid ideas,
        therefore no ideas should be reward.

        AC sniveled:
        What a demented summary

        mjr1007 replied:
        OK, now tell me why it's demented. Point out where people who were posting about why ideas are easy made a distinction between good ideas and bad one. Point out where these same people made a distinction in the difficulty of coming up with different quality ideas. And finally, point out where they said something other then no ideas should be rewarded.

        That is how a discussion works. It requires more then mere unsubstantiated opinion presented as facts.

        Of course any discussion which speaks in terms of ideas rather then progress in science is already off track.

        Just as a side note, why would anyone care about the difficulty some may or may not have with creating patents. It truly is something that can benefit the world, why would you care if it took 10 seconds or 10 years to come up with the jet engine, as long as you could now get from point A to point B twice as fast, bickering over how the person who made it possible did so seems, rather pointless, like many of the comments here.

        Is it really important to know that only corrupt CEOs of companies can "making millions and living in a hedonistic fantasy world." Why would anyone argue for rewarding corrupt rent seeking CEOs and complain about the people who stoke the fires of progress. It's beyond me how anyone other then the CEOs could think that's a good idea.

         

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

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 16th, 2008 @ 12:19pm

      Re: All ideas are not created equal

      mjr (again) totally misses the point. if increasing ILP in processors is progress, then let the market reward it. why give a patent to the guy who doesn't do anything with it?

      plus, mjr, i think you misrepresent what people are saying here. no one says that because there are stupid ideas no ideas should be protected (that's a gross misreading of what everyone else hsa said). they're saying that if you don't do anything with the idea, then it shouldn't be protected, because that goes again the concept of encouraging progress (as per the constitution).

      the real progress was intel doing something and making that concept real. just coming up with the idea is just a small part of that process. the real progress is doing something with the idea.

       

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

      •  
        identicon
        mjr1007, May 16th, 2008 @ 12:57pm

        Re: Re: All ideas are not created equal

        An AC wrote:
        mjr (again) totally misses the point. if increasing ILP in processors is progress, then let the market reward it. why give a patent to the guy who doesn't do anything with it?

        mjr1007 replied:
        The AC totally missed the point (I know you are but what am I). The Constitution states "to promote progress in Science ...", not to promote the market place. Really how much clearer could it possibly be. In this case all the guy, actually the research institute wanted was to license it so they could continue to fund more research, the bastards what where they thinking. Wanting to come up with more great ideas for companies to steal.

        The AC continued:
        plus, mjr, i think you misrepresent what people are saying here. no one says that because there are stupid ideas no ideas should be protected (that's a gross misreading of what everyone else hsa said). they're saying that if you don't do anything with the idea, then it shouldn't be protected, because that goes again the concept of encouraging progress (as per the constitution).

        mjr1007 replied:
        Clearly English is a human language with lots of subtleties but when the title is "Ideas are Easy" it's kind of hard to miss. It's true no one said there are lots of stupid ideas, they just used stupid ideas in all of their examples. This would be implicit as opposed to explicit, but it's there none the less. Just RTFC.

        The progress is in science, not the market. They are not the same thing. Most reasonable inventors who can't actually produce the product would be more then happy to license their invention for a reasonable fee. Hence giving progress in both science and the market. In fact that is the idea situation. Why waste a scarce research talent on producing products which requires less skill and has a larger pool of talent.

        An AC continued
        the real progress was intel doing something and making that concept real. just coming up with the idea is just a small part of that process. the real progress is doing something with the idea.

        mjr1007 replied:
        A patent is not just some random idea, as seems to be portrayed here in Mikebob land. Patents are supposed to be novel & non obvious, which makes them far from easy or even a small step in the process. Because of the dreadful patent system we have now many obvious overly broad patents have been granted. Which is obviously a problem, but that problem doesn't mean that truly novel patents are easy or worthless.

        Your whole point of coming up with a novel patent is easy is just wrong. If it was easy then we would all be flying skycars fueled by bio-fuels and living in energy efficient mansions. Having actually come up with some novel ideas, I can tell you, it's not easy. Having actually implemented novel ideas, I can tell you it's much easier. Both task though are much harder then just shooting off your mouth on a subject you have no real understanding of. In fact you don't even seem to understand the patent process, as flawed as it is.

        It's not that I don't get your point of only products count, it's that I think it's unsupported garbage. There is a difference.

         

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

  •  
    identicon
    mjr1007, May 16th, 2008 @ 8:50am

    All ideas are not created equal

    MLS wrote:
    Reduction to practice can be either "actual" (you build it and test if for efficacy) or "constructive" (you describe it in a patent application is detail sufficient to enable a person having skill in the art to actually reduce it to practice without having to engage in undue experimentation).

    John Wilson replied:
    Adding a "constructive" reduction to the list is where the whole thing starts to go wrong. All one does in doing that is to describe the idea over again in more technical terms in how it might work as something actual.

    mjr1007 replied:
    Rent seekers tend to do whatever they can get away with, why would anyone expect the field of patents to be any different then any other, in that regard. The idea, not what actually may happen, of describing something completely for other to implement is not novel. Any good scientific paper about an experiment should contain all the information necessary to reproduce that experiment. In fact that is part of the scientific method. Now humans being humans, sometimes it necessary to contact the original scientist to clear up some points, but the idea of being able to reduce to paper the information to build something is actually pretty common. Ever see blue prints?

    The bitonic sort example was another case. In this case they read the original paper, instead of a patent, but clearly there was a great deal more there then "MAKE SORT FASTER", which is the level of much of the discussion here.

    The only thing worse then having inept patent examiners approving patents is to then have corrupt attorneys bicker over it in front of a jury who thinks that "LETS BUILD A TIME MACHINE" is a worthwhile idea.

    Just because the current system is poorly implemented doesn't mean all possible systems would be piss poor.

    The obvious solution is to have compulsory licensing at a low fixed percentage for all of the patents and then let those knowledgeable in the field, i.e. the engineers actually developing the product, determine which patents where in fact useful and which were garbage.

    It seems obvious that someone with great skill in the field would be working in the field and not as a patent examiner. It might be a place for older engineers to go but that's a whole different discussion.

     

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

  •  
    icon
    Stephan Kinsella (profile), May 16th, 2008 @ 12:15pm

    Excellent post--Misesian insights

    Posted about this on Mises blog here.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 17th, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    noticing a pattern: anytime mjr gets backed into a corner and someone points out how little his argument makes sense, he starts screaming "rhetoric, rhetoric!" it's like a magic incantation. neat trick.

    as they say in the prince bride, i do not think you know what that word means.

    i'll start to use it too.

    mjr, rhetoric, rhetoric!

    > What I did say was to let people knowledgeable in the field decide which patent they would use when working on their products. You know let the implementors, your hero's, decide what is garbage, like your comments, and what is actually useful.

    rhetoric, rhetoric! why do we need anyone to decide which patent to use? this isn't a catalog. the problems come about when people come up with the same idea themselves, or just take a tiny bit of a patent and use that to inspire something much better. claiming that it's always people using patents is a total strawman. rhetoric! rhetoric!

    besides, why would patents be better than just letting companies pay people for basic research?

    > So tell me Mr. AC, exactly how do you have progress in science without actually doing that techie stuff?

    rhetoric! rhetoric! who said there wouldn't be any techie stuff done? not i. someone's using rhetorical devices.

    techie stuff gets done because companies need it to get done to innovate and serve the market. they will pay for it.

    > This is just so sad. If the best you've got is to use such obvious rhetoric to try to win you point then it should be clear to anyone reading this that your point of view is not worth the electrons needed to render it.

    rhetoric, rhetoric! you use the same thing on me using rhetoric (claiming my points are "rhetoric" rather than actually responding to the substance). and then you blast obnoxious insults. rhetoric! rhetoric!

    > I actually like lively informed debate, this on the other hand is just so much nonsense. If that is the best you've got then it is better to be thought a fool then to open your mouth (keep posting) and assure everyone.

    rhetoric, rhetoric! when you have no solid response, insult away.

    if you like a lively informed debate, it helps not to act like an asshole during it. just a suggestion. otherwise, people might just decide you're an asshole and not take you seriously.

    rhetoric! rhetoric!

    wow, mjr, that works great.

     

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

    •  
      identicon
      mjr1007, May 17th, 2008 @ 2:20pm

      Re:

      An AC's rhetoric was:
      noticing a pattern: anytime mjr gets backed into a corner and someone points out how little his argument makes sense, he starts screaming "rhetoric, rhetoric!" it's like a magic incantation. neat trick.

      as they say in the prince bride, i do not think you know what that word means.

      i'll start to use it too.

      mjr, rhetoric, rhetoric!

      mjr1007 replied:
      Wow, this is really surreal, monkey see, monkey do, I guess. I know you are but what am I? Is that really the best you've got. This is really some of the worse rhetoric yet, but to be fair it is extremely entertaining.

      The rhetorical device you just used was a straw man. Which means you misrepresented what I said and then criticized the misrepresentation. Do you see how this works? You don't just offer unsubstantiated opinion, you actually give details and make a case.

      I actually think some rhetorical devices can be quite useful to emphasize a point, the problem is when your entire argument consists of repeating the same old unsubstantiated stuff with absolutely no facts.

      mjr1007 wrote:
      What I did say was to let people knowledgeable in the field decide which patent they would use when working on their products. You know let the implementors, your hero's, decide what is garbage, like your comments, and what is actually useful.

      An AC's rhetoric was:
      rhetoric, rhetoric! why do we need anyone to decide which patent to use? this isn't a catalog. the problems come about when people come up with the same idea themselves, or just take a tiny bit of a patent and use that to inspire something much better.

      mjr1007 replied:
      Once again the logical fallacy is the: “all birds are not cardinals”. People using patents are building new products but not all new products use patents. For those which do, the people actually doing the development should decide which patents were and were not useful and to what degree.

      Reinventing the wheel, is just a waste of scarce development resources. Any developer worth their salt will know what is already available and leverage that. Spending time reinventing the wheel is just stupid, which is probably why you suggested it.

      Building on previous work has been recognized for centuries. Issac Newton “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Recognizing the work of others has a long history in science and technology. If the person comes up with something much better then by all means patent that improvement if it is novel. Otherwise use what is already available and pay the licensing fee.

      An AC's rhetoric was:
      claiming that it's always people using patents is a total strawman. rhetoric! rhetoric!

      mjr1007 replied:
      You are right about that, claiming people always use patented technology to build their products is a total straw man. I'm just glad I never said it.

      An AC's rhetoric was
      besides, why would patents be better than just letting companies pay people for basic research?

      mjr1007 replied:
      It nice to see that not only are you irrational but also ill informed. Companies are getting out of the Basic Research business.


      mjr1007 wrote:
      So tell me Mr. AC, exactly how do you have progress in science without actually doing that techie stuff?

      An AC's rhetoric was:
      rhetoric! rhetoric! who said there wouldn't be any techie stuff done? not i. someone's using rhetorical devices.

      techie stuff gets done because companies need it to get done to innovate and serve the market. they will pay for it.

      mjr1007 replied:
      It's true it wasn't you complaining about the techie stuff, it was some other posting. Of course you completely missed the point, no surprise there. If you go back and read some of the previous posts you will see someone complained about a posting of mine where I had the audacity to actually talk about science and technology in a discussion about patents, which is all about promoting progress in science and the useful arts, at least it should be if you bother to RTFC.

      mjr1007 wrote:
      This is just so sad. If the best you've got is to use such obvious rhetoric to try to win you point then it should be clear to anyone reading this that your point of view is not worth the electrons needed to render it.

      An AC's rhetoric was:
      rhetoric, rhetoric! you use the same thing on me using rhetoric (claiming my points are "rhetoric" rather than actually responding to the substance). and then you blast obnoxious insults. rhetoric! rhetoric!

      mjr1007 replied:
      Wow, 6 rhetorics in just over 2 lines, are you going for a record here? I would be happy to respond to anything substantive you have to say. I'm just waiting for you to actually say something substantive. I'm certainly not going to get into a rhetoric counting contest with you, clearly you can write it more times then I can. As far as I can tell, I've actually responded in painful detail to you. If something is not clear, then please feel free to bring it up again. I'll try to dumb it down even more for you.

      mjr1007 wrote:
      I actually like lively informed debate, this on the other hand is just so much nonsense. If that is the best you've got then it is better to be thought a fool then to open your mouth (keep posting) and assure everyone.

      An AC's rhetoric was:
      rhetoric, rhetoric! when you have no solid response, insult away.

      mjr1007 wrote:
      Come on, only two rhetorics in one sentence, your not even trying now. This is really dropping your rhetorics per line average. Again, if there is some point I've overlooked just bring it up again, I really do try to show you the errors of your ways.

      An AC whinned:
      if you like a lively informed debate, it helps not to act like an asshole during it. just a suggestion. otherwise, people might just decide you're an asshole and not take you seriously.

      rhetoric! Rhetoric!

      mjr1007 replied:
      You do know this is the Internet, right? Either grow up or stop posting. If you consider your post number 54 to be civil then you have a bigger problem then I though. Once you become sarcastic and obnoxious I felt no compunction to keep the gloves on. Do you see how that works though. You start something and then I follow suit. If you actually want a civil discussion then, oh I don't know, try being civil yourself. If you want to show people how clever you can be, then maybe whining when someone responds in kind is not the way to go.

      An AC wrote sarcastically;
      wow, mjr, that works great.

      mjr1007 replied:
      If you keep this type of comment up I see a lot more whining in your future.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    mjr1007, May 19th, 2008 @ 4:10pm

    Real discussion

    Now that things have quited down it might be a good time to actually discuss the topic. There are clearly things we agree on.

    Generating product ideas is actually pretty easy and usually not worthy of patent protection.
    Implementation is much harder then just coming up with a product idea.
    The changes to the product that occur during the product development cycle are not usual patentable.

    The problem that's been demonstrated here is that people seem to think that is all patents are about, typical non-patentable product ideas. It's unfortunate that the system has been turned into that. Clearly this is not promoting progress in science and the useful arts.

    There were examples given here which fall into that category, as did most of the Cambrian House ideas, at least the ones I saw.

    If we pursue the idea of implementation being hard then it would seem clearly that novel ways of implementing things would be even harder. Rather then have people hide this under trade secret the framers of the Constitution sought a way to let both the inventor and the public benefit from making the invention widely know. Smiths writing, from around that time, talked about the problems with monopolies. Granting limited time monopolies may have worked at that time but in today's technology driven world it really doesn't make much sense.

    The suggestion has been made often that corporations should just do the Basic Research. This is contradicted by the facts. Companies are getting out of the Basic Research business. The drug companies give us a preview of what that would look like. First, it's been widely reported that they spend more money on advertising then research. Which makes their whining about the cost of research difficult to take. Second, look at the type of drugs they come out with. They spend more on research for lifestyle drugs like ED drugs, then on life saving drugs. Corporations by their nature do not serve their customers, they are in the business to make money, lots of it. The CEO has a fiduciary responsibility to do just that. How long do you think a CEO would last if he went to the board of directors and said, well we lost money this year but we really serviced our customers. Think about that the next time you hear some say “companies will do the research”.

    It's clear products companies really don't want to do the research, they just want to make money. Individual inventors, on the other hand, particularly successful ones, are often motivated by things other then just money. You want people to invent because it's who they are and what they do. You don't want some Pointed Hair Bossed (the PHB from Dilbert) deciding what is and is not worth pursing.

    So where does this leave us. If we drop the patent system all together, as some here have suggested, then trade secrets will become the prevailing IP law and the public will be worse off. There will be less innovation and our country would fall behind.

    If you look at the criminal justice system it has more problems then the patent system. Half the men on death row in Illinois were proved innocent by DNA evidence. The death penalty is the harshest sentence a court can hand down, when half of them are provably wrong it's not really a stretch to say the system is broken. It would make as much sense to say that the criminal just system is failing and we'll just let the market take care of that whole justice thing, as it would to eliminate the patent system. The point here obviously is to fix the damn thing.


    How do we do this. Well first we have to look at where the current systems is broken. The major problems seem to be:

    Bad patents (obvious or overly broad patents or both)
    Patent trolls who take advantage of bad patents
    Patent thicket (when there are so many patents in a single area that no one can produce a product)
    Companies not licensing legitimate IP on the hopes of dragging it out in court.
    Having lawyers, judges and juries of non-technology people, decide about technology.

    The second to last problem is One that I've never seen written about here. The classic case is Robert Kearns, the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper. The last one is also one that has been touched on here but not that much. It just seems silly to ask all of these people, who couldn't design a product if their lives depended on it, let alone come up with real progress in the useful arts and sciences, to decide what is and is not real progress. The other problems have been talked to death here and need no further comment.

    So the question becomes how do we promote the progress of science and the useful arts and avoid all of these problems. Before people say just drop the patent system think of the PHB deciding what to research and the likelihood that most companies would just start using trade secret protection.

    My favorite solution is compulsory licensing with a flat percentage (say 10%) for all of the patents needed to produce a product. Let the engineers who actually develop the products allocate which patents where used and to what degree. There would, of course, have to be some type of review board for inventors to appeal to. It should be made up of developers in the field, rather then lawyers, judges and juries. Let review how this solution will effect all of the design criteria.

    There was an article here recently on cell phone makers pooling patents. When groups of companies do it, there is less chance of success then if the government mandates it, put it show where companies think things are headed.

    Rewarding inventors with licensing fees will encourage them to invent more.
    Bad patents will just not be used.
    The appeals process will no longer be a legal action, so it gets rid of the lawyers.
    Since all patents are under compulsory licensing, any company could use any and all necessary patents
    Since the licensing is automatic, there is no issue about paying the fees.
    People knowledgeable in the field would be making the decisions, so they would be base on facts. Engineers are notorious for not being wanted by lawyers because they are not swayed by the lawyers simple emotional arguments.

    How the discussion should go from here. If you think that some of these problems are not really problems, say so and then support it with evidence and reason, not just opinion. If you think there are even more problems, state what you think they are an support it with evidence and reason. If you think there are better approaches then state them and go through the criteria and show how it solves all of the problems.

    It would be very nice to have a reasoned and insightful discussion on this topic.

     

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

  •  
    identicon
    Michael F. Martin, May 27th, 2008 @ 3:07pm

    "Ideas Are Easy... Execution Is Difficult"

    You've drunk the VC koolaid, Mike.

    Both ideas AND execution are difficult.

    VCs and the corporations that acquire VC-backed startups effectively pay only for execution right now. Naturally, they want us all to believe that's all that's important.

    If you asked music listeners what's more important, the record label or the musician?

    There are plenty of areas of R&D that are more art than science.

     

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

    •  
      icon
      Mike (profile), May 28th, 2008 @ 3:02am

      Re:

      You've drunk the VC koolaid, Mike.

      And what VCs are those?

      Both ideas AND execution are difficult.

      Turns out not so much.


      VCs and the corporations that acquire VC-backed startups effectively pay only for execution right now. Naturally, they want us all to believe that's all that's important.


      I'm not sure why you keep going back to VCs. This has nothing to do with VCs.

      If you asked music listeners what's more important, the record label or the musician?

      That's what's important to the consumer. Not what's important to success. Different things...

      There are plenty of areas of R&D that are more art than science.

      And the "art" is in executing.

       

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

  •  
    identicon
    randal marksberry, Jun 19th, 2011 @ 5:57am

    I have a question

    I have a patent, had a business, and a product but due to a lot of other unfortunate life circumstances, I had to close it down. So where do I find investors willing to take it over and give me a profit in royalties or just buy it outright, without it costing ME anything out of pocket?

     

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


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