by Mike Masnick

Invention Is Nothing If There's No Market For It

from the the-myth-of-the-inventor dept

For a while now, we've felt that it's important to distinguish between innovation and invention. Invention is coming up with a new idea. Innovation is the process of successfully taking a new idea to market and continually making it more and more successful. Innovation should be much more important to the economy than invention. You can invent all you want, but if there's no way to successfully create a market for it (whether the market already exists, or you figure out how to create demand for it), then it's really meaningless. That's part of our complaint with the patent system is that it rewards invention more than innovation. Part of the problem, though, is that too many people consider innovation and invention interchangeable terms. On top of that, they mistakenly then assume that patents are a proxy for both invention and innovation. Unfortunately, the end result is articles like the following CNN piece talking up invention shops as if they were driving innovation. While the story focuses on one shop that does create some unique concepts, it lumps them in with notorious patent hoarders, as if they're the same thing. Still, what it comes down to is that anyone can invent stuff. Figuring out how to make those inventions useful and marketable in a way that people want them is what drives our economy forward.

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    Mike (profile), 20 Oct 2006 @ 11:52am

    Re: Re:

    If innovation is paramount in Mike's eyes, he should applaud the patent system, because it allows innovators to focus on making inventions useful.

    No, it puts friction in place of making inventions useful.

    Inventors are in the business of advancing technology. The patent system let's the two camps focus on their strengths, so that IF a innovator figures out how to develop a market for a invention, the inventor still reaps some reward.

    Why should an inventor reap rewards if they couldn't figure out how to make their product useful? The rewards are the marketplace which has found the product useful. It's the making the product useful part that's important. There's no reason inventors can't team up with innovators to reap the full rewards.

    But assuming the judicial system has a firm grasp of how to fairly compensate inventors (i.e., a reasonable royalty), then Mike should not bemoan that inventors are rewarded a fraction of the innovator's spoils.

    Why? The market works just fine in rewarding those who deserve the spoils.

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