CNN Counts Patents, Mistakes Them For Inventiveness

from the just-saying dept

For many years, we’ve pointed out that the research shows that patents are not a proxy for innovation. In fact, they’re not even clearly correlated. There is no link between the amount of innovation and the number of patents received. The only thing that patents seem to spur is… more patents. But… because patents are often falsely associated with innovation and because they’re easy to count, it’s a very easy way for the lazy press (and politicians) to assume that they’re showing how innovative a certain geographic region might be. We’ve actually called CNN out on this lazy trope before, but it hasn’t stopped them from coming right back and posting a silly article about the “most inventive states” based entirely on patent counts.

Unfortunately, this only serves to reinforce the bogus narrative that patents are a reasonable proxy for innovation, and ignores the true nature of innovation. It’s no surprise that lazy journalists would do this kind of thing, but it is a reminder that we really need much better metrics for measuring innovation.

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Comments on “CNN Counts Patents, Mistakes Them For Inventiveness”

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vegetaman (profile) says:

Re: Re: CNN Logic

It is amazing, for all the “time” the 24-hour networks have, they sure as hell don’t seem to have any time to do in-depth reporting on hard hitting issues that require real journalism.

Instead let’s show…

“LIVE car chases! LIVE weather reports! LIVE… cats and dogs! Awwww, isn’t that cute? What, follow the money, that takes time and effort we don’t have — there’s cats and dogs to film, for cripes sake!”

5 minutes worth of news for every 2 hours worth of commentary on the 24-hour news networks, IMO.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

The govt. established media cartels need to be forced to relinquish their govt. established broadcasting and cableco monopoly privileges. I’m sick of it, these morons have absolutely no merit and they trot their selfish and indefensible, easily refutable, position to the world without giving any opponents, like Mike Masnick, an opportunity to respond or debate. Abolish govt. established broadcasting and cableco monopolies. The govt. has no business granting monopoly privileges just to serve corporate interests.

out_of_the_blue says:

To deny correlation, first state a figure for "innovation".

I see this is a popular demand, so, Mike, ‘splain the units of “innovation”, and then state the figure. Perhaps all you’ve got is your woozy unit-less feeling, or in another word: opinion. My point is that’s what “economics” comes down to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: To deny correlation, first state a figure for "innovation".

>Terse, to the point, entirely derogatory and opinion. Very good.

‘entirely derogatory’ how so ?

opinion, of course, it is hard to provide facts when making a comment that is itself without facts.

if you are making a comment on an opinion, (not facts), then it too has to be an opinion, (for facts).

masnick only provided opinion, no facts, and not even the correct meaning of definition of critical words..

“reporting” short for “reporting the facts”, this is not what happens here, facts are scant, opinion (correct of no), and the redefinition of words is the order of the day here.

but if masnick is that confused by the meaning of innovation and invention, I do not see how he can claim to hold any qualifications that would make his opinions on these subjects of any value at all.

if he cant even get the words right, how can we expect him to be able to form any opinion or interpret any facts in relation to them.

it does appear masnick seem to confuse innovation and immation, he seems to think if you exactly copy what someone else has invented, for exactly the same purpose that is somehow innovation, where it is in fact immitation.

taking something that has allready been invented, and using that thing in a new a DIFFERENT way to achieve a new and different result is both innovation and invention.

taking something someone invented for a specific job, and using that method for the same specific job (on a different product) is plain outright theft, and completely devoid of either invention or innovation, but is certainly imitation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: To deny correlation, first state a figure for "innovation".

I used this comment in another thread, and I’ll use it again here, because it is, again, perfect

from, and example sentence for “metrics”

“In fact, you should maintain metrics and prove with verifiable data that you are worthy to be an authority on any point made.”

Mark Summerfield (user link) says:

Invention vs innovation

The point is well-made here – patents are a poor proxy for innovation.

But this is not to say that they are an equally poor proxy for inventiveness. Invention and innovation are not the same thing, and the headline on this article does not match the content!

Most inventions are commercially or practically useless (in that nobody really wants them, or not enough to pay what they would cost). Of the ‘useful’ inventions, only a minority ever go on to be successful, because most inventors either cannot, or do not, execute effectively.

Invention is only the beginning. Innovation is so much more. So, even setting aside criticisms of the patent system, it is not surprising that there is little correlation between patents and observable innovation.

It is, however, quite a different thing to conclude that, therefore, patents do not make a meaningful contribution to the success of innovative businesses.

More fundamentally, not only do we need better metrics for innovation, we probably also need to agree on what, exactly, we mean by the term.


Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Invention vs innovation

very true mark, the problem is here is that it is not in masnicks interest to be clear on this, im sure he knows that innovation and invention are two different things.. but he prefers to blur the distinction because it better supports his biases.

innovation is how you use something, invention is ‘something’, you innovate by using a wheel to move an object you have not invented the wheel or the thing you are moving (probably), but you innovated, without inventing.

it’s a massive difference, that is clear to everyone, but the people who frequent here and masnick.

I know it’s a bit hard for masnick, as he has his agenda to push.. but the distinction between invention (and patents) and innovation is clear to anyone who can think..

you may have heard to story of the truck that was stuck under the bridge, by a few inches, the driver and emergency working were all trying to work out how to get the truck unstuck..they could not work it out..

a small boy was watching all this, noticing that the ‘adults’ were having so much trouble with the stuck truck, he said “let the air out of the tyres”, problem solved..

the question is masnick, do you consider this invention or innovation??, what can be patented from that..

clearly it’s innovation, he did not invent ‘taking air out of the tyres’, or the wheel, or the truck or the bridge, he cannot patent anything, he is in fact using things that may have been patented..

but it’s innovation, innovation like using the light on your mobile phone to find the key hole to your door.

innovation is a new way of doing something you do, with what you have in a different way.

invention is a new way of creating something new, it’s a simple but important difference, and a good reporter (or wordsmith) would not display such ignorance of his language as Masnick is required to do, due to the message being more important than reality..

in other words Mr Masnick, it’s your bias that makes you look as stupid as you appear, we know you have to do it (thats how you get paid), but it is also why you have such a small following, and so little impact, and why so many people dont really care what you say, apart from amusement value.

which is sad, because clearly you know better, it’s a hard balancing act right ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Invention vs innovation

“innovation like using the light on your mobile phone to find the key hole to your door.”

Holy shit, really?

So is using the headlights on your car.

Or a flashlight.

Or a headlamp.

Or a lighter.

Or the display of a protable DVD player.

Or the screen of a tablet.

Or a laser pointer.

Or a keychain with a light on it.

All of these are innovations? Holy fuck. I’ve been using the screen on my cell phone ever since I had one as a flashlight. Thats not innovation. Its called using the tools available for the job. There’s nothing innovative about using your mobile phone to find the keyhole in your door. The methods are all the same. There isn’t anything novel about it, you are STILL using LIGHT to find the keyhole. Just adding “mobile phone” does not make it an innovation. (just like about 10,000 patents out there). Now if you were using something other than light to find the keyhole, a new method, a new device (not another light), then you have an innovation.

Anonymous Coward says:

how about some examples of innovations with things that have not been invented ??

how can you innovate without having first invented the thing you intend to use in an innovative way ?

you can do alot of innovative things with a light globe, but if the light globe has (or was) not invented you cannot do anything innovative with it (it does not exist)..

to innovate, you must INVENT !!!

by definition, you can invent without innovation, but you cannot innovate without invention.

if you have to change the definition of a word, or words, Masnick you have to know you are doing something wrong.

you will never be able to make a strong and supportable argument if you have to confuse the meaning of well known terms to make whatever point you are trying to make.

ChrisH (profile) says:

While we’re at it, let’s tackle the notion that more laws passed = better legislature. I figure if the laws weren’t crap to begin with, they wouldn’t need to rewrite them so often. It’s certainly not a given that the more new laws passed the better, usually the opposite is true when it comes to technology. Sorry of going off topic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

its funny masnick is always banging on about how the law does not keep up with the progress of technology.

the laws are generally not crap, if you can accept that things actually change over time, what laws do you feel should not be changed ??

most laws dont really get changed that much anyway, like murder or theft, thet are pretty well defined things, and are quite old laws.

laws are intended to be basically timeless, updated for the present day..

theft is still theft regardless of if it happened today or 100 years ago.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Keeping up laws

Well, it would be fine and all if anyone had thought of the future when writing the law.

Sometimes they did, sometimes they did not. And sometimes an entirely sensible law was changed in a way which produced problems in the future.

Like those morons that decided that copyright should be valid after the death of the author. There was no reason to change it to that, but rampant rent-seeking of publishers. They did it, and lo and behold, we’ve got a shitload of works nobody can publish anymore because nobody can find all the probable heirs and rightholders.

And it goes on. Loads of laws with specific exemptions for some technology, which will be obsolete in 20 years, but the law will still be wreaking havoc.

staff says:

another biased article

Think of all the great American inventions, telephone, light bulb, airplane, telegraph, etc. Each was covered by one or more patents.

It?s about property rights. They should not only be for the rich and powerful. Show me a country with weak or ineffective property rights and I?ll show you a weak economy with high unemployment. Does that remind you of any present day country?

Have you ever filed, or prosecuted a patent application? Have you ever invented anything, or had to fight off large infringers who ripped you off and thumbed their noses at you saying “so sue us”? All you know about patents is you don’t have any.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: another biased article

Since when did ideas become tangible property?

And there doesn’t seem to be any problems with weak or completely non existant “property rights” in the fashion world. Yet I don’t hear about poor underpaid fashion designers. or unemployyment. or a weak sector. You don’t need to look at other countries or economies, you can look right within industries within the US that don’t have so-called “property rights” on what are ideas, which anyone can have, and multiple people in fact do at the very same time (see: fosbury flop, et al)

i see bias in your opinions as well, might as well call a spade a spade.

Ronald J Riley (profile) says:

Re: Re: another biased article

There is no comparison between fashion and actual inventions. Take Dr. Damadian and MRI or Gertrude Elion and her leukemia treatment. Or Wilson Greatbatch and the pacemaker, Gordon Gould and the laser. I knew all of these people and was proud to count them as friends. Nothing in fashion holds a candle to real invention.

Now fashion has a lot in common with Masnick’s line of work. Both are superficial.

Others have done a pretty good job of addressing the difference between those who actually invent things and the marketing hucksters who claim to be innovators because they may be better at marketing than those who invent. As a rule, most professions see their role in the scheme of things as more important than what others do. That seems to be human nature.

But the truth is that so called innovators could not do anything without inventions as raw material. Regardless of all their hype, in the end they are still 10th rate in comparison to what inventors accomplish.

Ronald J. Riley,

President – – RJR at
Executive Director – – RJR at
Senior Fellow –
President – Alliance for American Innovation
Caretaker of Intellectual Property Creators on behalf of deceased founder Paul Heckel
Michigan * Washington, DC
Direct 810-597-0194 * 202-318-1595 – 9 am to 8 pm EST.

Vic Kley says:

Masnick counts words, mistakes his own for wisdom

Passive solar and other similar technologies are hundreds of years old it is an innovation to bring these things to market and create a popular and useful product.

This shows the key element of innovation it is market related, and success related. The only other requirement is that the core elements of the product or service being offered not be common and everyday.

You don’t need inventions to make innovations.

What Masnick and his herd of ilks don’t seem to understand is that many critical modern innovations like smart phones could not exist without EXPIRED PUBLIC DOMAIN INVENTION. If instead these items remained uninvented or trade secrets Apple, Samsung, Nokia, and most especially the Microsofties would not exist.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Masnick counts words, mistakes his own for wisdom

“You don’t need inventions to make innovations.”

so you dont need the invention of the transistor to innovate mobile phones, or computers, you dont need the invention of radio, antennas, metal, wire, capacitors etc to innovate mobile phones or some other technology.

you dont need metals to be invented (the process method) to innovate an aircraft ?

you dont need a light globe to be invented to innovate a video projector ?

give me an example where you have seen innovation without invention..

you said it yourself.

innovations like smart phones could not exist without EXPIRED PUBLIC DOMAIN INVENTION

so you agree, without the original invention, you cannot innovate, smart phones could not exist without INVENTIONS !!!! you said it brother.

thanks for your wholehearted support of the facts..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Masnick counts words, mistakes his own for wisdom

list 5 successful passive solar technologies that are in use today ?

so if you take passive solar for example, you are saying someone ‘invented’ that technology hundreds of years ago, therefore, my statement hold correct, you cannot innovate without there first being an invention (ie, passive solar, hundreds of years ago).. upon that invention you can innovate.

but if you use passive solar invention to heat something, the same way it was done hundreds of years ago, then it is immitation, not innovation..

using passive solar invention for another purpose not used before is innovation, not doing the same thing as has always been done, is copying, not innovation..

and certainly not invention, if you came up with a new and diifferent way to use passive solar that could be an invention..

using the same way for the same purpose, is to immitate, copy, pirate, steal etc.

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