The Key To Innovation: Putting Ideas And Information Together In New Ways

from the but-you-can't-do-that-if-the-ideas-are-locked-up dept

There's a new, massively detailed, study coming out on the secrets to being a great innovator, and the key finding really stands out:
"What the innovators have in common is that they can put together ideas and information in unique combinations that nobody else has quite put together before."
Notice that one of the key components of all of this is seeing ideas and information that are already out there, and then doing the useful part of putting them together in a different way. This is something we've noted time and time again when it comes to innovation. Often, the actual "idea" isn't new -- but it's that it is put together in a better or different way than before, and that new way works better for people. Yet, when you have something like patents on the basic ideas (and, before some patent lawyer shows up to say patents aren't on ideas but inventions, let's all just agree how ridiculous that claim is), it makes this much more difficult and expensive. The classic example of this is RIM. The idea of wireless email was hardly new. Lots of folks had been trying to do it right. The technical issues behind providing email wirelessly were not difficult either. What RIM did was put it all together in a compelling way -- by recognizing how to package it all in a manner that was significantly more usable than previous attempts. And yet, another firm, NTP, who had failed to innovate and had failed to actually figure out a way to make wireless email useful, came along and sued, because it held patents on the very concept of wireless email. After a long legal battle, RIM was eventually forced to pay over $600 million to NTP.

Those sorts of situations should really bother anyone who believes in the importance of innovation. As this study has shown (yet again), real innovators need to be free to combine different ideas and experiment to see what actually works. The problem, as it appears to be so often, is the faulty belief that the "innovation" is in the idea itself. That's almost never the case. The innovation is in figuring out the right combination of factors that packages it up the way the market wants things. And now we've got another study showing this, though it seems unlikely to actually impact policy decisions, and that's a huge shame if you're a supporter of innovation.
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Filed Under: innovation, new ideas


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  1. icon
    Mr RC (profile), 9 Dec 2009 @ 2:08am

    Patents + 'Burden of .... '

    Patents should only be applied when there is an actual product, otherwise it isn't an invention, merely an idea. An idea that locks the market out..

    Wireless email, I'm sure many many many people thought about that (myself included) but it's the first to the patent office to get control of it, not the first to actually CREATE the invention. How is it meant to promote progress, when it brings things to a screeching halt and STOPS things coming to market when many of these so called 'inventors' have absolutely no intention of creating the product in the first place.

    What someone should do, and it would probably cost a fortune, is to patent every idea that people can come up with and bring the market to a complete standstill where nobody is going to do anything for fear of being sued into oblivion.

    It would require a lot of money to make a company that accepts ideas, registers the patents under the company, and takes maybe 20-30% of the income that the idea generates via lawsuits/licensing, passing the rest off to the 'idea man'.

    I think that would show everyone that patenting concepts and ideas is just stupid, it's not a bloody invention, it's a thought until there is a product. Though I doubt there's a billionaire out there who'd be willing to make this happen.. so it's just a pipedream...

    There is 'burden of proof' in law, patents should have 'burden of creation' if they are going to let ideas be patented. If you're not actively trying to create what you've patented, then you lose it, freeing it up for those who also had the idea and actually plan to do something with it rather than sit back and sue people left right and centre.

    Hell, throw in a 'Burden of Innovation', having to build upon the initial patent within 5 years or lose it. 5 years should be enough time to advance the product in some way/shape/form ensuring constant evolution. Those who can't innovate, lose the patent and give other people/companies the opportunity to do so. You keep innovating, you keep control, you snooze, you lose...

    Then we'd see real invention and innovation... but we all know that will never happen.. not while lobbyists are allowed to exist... and the politicians are in corporate pockets...

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