Another Area Where There's Tremendous Innovation Without Patents: Wallets On Kickstarter

from the pay-attention dept

Among friends who pay attention to my Kickstarter-backing habits, it's become a bit of a joke that I seem to be obsessed with wallets. And it's somewhat true. By my count, I've backed 11 wallet projects on Kickstarter. I will also admit that there was a period of time (basically all of 2013) where I would actually make sure to check Kickstarter for new wallets once a day, though that's since stopped. It definitely did border on obsessiveness. Another friend of mine has ordered about the same amount (I think at last count he was at 13 such projects). We've joked that we should set up the "museum of Kickstarter wallets" between the two of us. I still can't fully explain what made me so fascinated with finding a better wallet, but I think it was a combination of factors. After years of using a Costanza wallet, I saw a friend's minimalist wallet, and it just made sense to me. The problem, though, is that for all the neatness and organization of a minimalist wallet, you're definitely giving up some features to shrink down the wallet. And thus began the perpetual hunt for the more perfect minimalist wallet.

Kickstarter has now posted an article that feels like it was written with me in mind specifically, discussing why there are so many wallets on Kickstarter, since others have noticed that Kickstarter is basically the place to go for everything in wallet innovation, among other things. There are a few reasons for this that the article presents, including the fact that wallets are, generally speaking, a relatively simple product to make. Thus, for many creative folks, it's a good "test" project, to see if they can design, sell and manufacture something straightforward. But, there's another reason described that I think is much more interesting, and it explains in part why I started to become infatuated with seemingly minor differences between the various wallet projects. It's that there are so many different variations on how to make a wallet, and it's really tempting to find that "perfect" variation:
Answering this question is where we step into the realm of true maker geekdom. Wallets are ultimately all about the small details — those tiny pebble-in-your-shoe subtleties that suit one person’s needs and ruin the next person’s day. “It’s a product that has to do a lot of different things at the same time,” says Dimatos, “and you can’t push one part of it without pulling on the others. Make your wallet too slim, and congratulations, it now fits nothing.”

Scan through the history of wallet-project designs, and you’ll see the same broad strokes repeated. Zoom in on the details, though, and what you see isn’t simple repetition — it’s more like a strange form of evolution and natural selection. There are certain basic wallet forms: the slim leather billfold, the elastic sleeve, the two rigid plates. But each iteration of them tweaks one element, or optimizes another, to find its own niche, like bird species evolving to pick berries from different parts of the same tree.

Obstructures’ design for the Aluminum Plate Wallet, for instance, owes a bit to one of Kickstarter’s earliest slim-wallet hits. The picture on the left above is the Humn: two carbon-fiber plates, held together by a flexible band. One member of the Obstructures team had tried out the Humn, and noticed an issue: when he spread the two plates apart, tension on the band stayed high. If his fingers slipped, the plates could snap back together on them. So the Aluminum Plate Wallet (in the center) was designed to release the tension when the wallet was opened. Obstructures band the plates together with two O-rings; to open the wallet, you roll one ring out of its notch and down toward the other. Tension adjusts accordingly. (There’s a manufacturing perk, too: O-rings are common, easy to source, and don’t need to be cut to measure.)

This month, you could find the same notch-and-ring system in the Bracket Wallet (on the right). But the Bracket design tweaks something else: where the Aluminum Plate has a solid, substantial, elegant look and feel, the Bracket runs back toward the same breezy minimalism as the Humn, with bright, slim carbon-fiber plates.

Similar things happen to every design. The elastic sleeve keeps mutating, evolving niche features to suit different backers. “They’re all very different,” says Sutter. “Things like the Crabby versus the Slim versus TGT — they’re all using similar principles, but I don’t find them redundant.” It’s more like one big process of crowd-based personalization; wait long enough, and there’s a good chance someone will tweak the wallet in a way that suits you. “Everybody’s got their own way of innovating within that archetype,” says Hall. “The metal wallets aren’t terribly different, but they appeal to different sensibilities. Some people like more tools integrated. Some people prefer making it as compact as possible. I think there’s still a lot of room to play with it.”
That describes my view of it as an outsider perfectly. The deeper I dove into the new wallet pool, the more quickly I could look at different projects, and the little tweaks they had made, to judge whether they were an improvement on something I'd already seen, and worth experimenting with (one other factor: if you focus on cheap wallets, it doesn't get too expensive, and while some wallets are pricey, many are quite inexpensive).

But what also struck me about the quoted section above is that it so directly repeats one of the key points we've made for years about the general process of innovation. As we've noted, innovation is an ongoing process of experimentation, as different people try different things and figure out what works. If you've spent much time in truly innovative environments, you'd know that this is a key part of the innovation process. For years, we've talked about the difference between ideas and execution, and that becomes quite clear in cases like this. Some of the wallets may seem like good ideas, but the execution is terrible. A few of the wallets I've received have been close to unusable (which also helped convince me to back off my wallet obsession). But it's also why competition is such a huge part of the innovative process.

What you see in the wallet/Kickstarter space is a really interesting innovation petri dish -- happening because of lots of easy experimentation and tons of competition, as different folks try to innovate around a few basic concepts to make a more perfect product. The Kickstarter article describes it as evolution, but it comes down to Elon Musk's idea of the velocity of innovation.

The larger point, however, is that all of this innovation and competition and evolution is happening because so many different folks are trying to make that perfect wallet for a group of customers. That is, what's driving people is the ability to make a better product and better serve a market. Note that nowhere is there any discussion on "intellectual property" or locking up an idea. If someone patented the use of o-rings to bind together two plates, or some of the other common structures, it would actually slow down the innovation as there would be fewer opportunities for others to innovate and improve on one another's ideas.

This is why it gets so frustrating to see people insist that somehow you need intellectual property protections to create innovative markets. We see all the time that there's often much greater innovation in markets where there's much greater competition and where the focus is on making the best thing for the customer. As a result, we see a much more rapid pace of innovation in such markets.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, my personal favorite Kickstarter wallet projects are (in order) the FITT, the Ainste and the TGT. Those three have come the closest to what I like, but I've checked out plenty of variations to see if anything improves on those designs. And, of course, none of those may meet your personal needs, but that's why this competitive market is so useful. There are probably other projects that are more interesting to you.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 8th, 2014 @ 6:51pm

    innovation without patents

    I understand the agenda you are pushing, but really? This?

    Nobody says you absolutely need a patent to innovate. It's foolish to make such a strawman argument. The story would be just as good (if not better) without trying to set it up as a basis for a truly empty argument.

    Oh, and since minimalist wallets have been around for a very long time, any patent would have long since expired. :)

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    paean, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 8:48pm

    Re: innovation without patents

    Agreed--compared to a patent-heavy industry like smartphones this isn't a very good example.

    I don't think any of the Techdirt criticisms of the patent or copyright systems do a good enough job of grappling with the central claim, which is that without IP, large-scale R&D is impossible because their fruits are so easily copied and thus without protection yield nothing on the investment.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 9:13pm

    I have never met, and doubtless never will, an inventor/author who pursued an idea because Title 17 and Title 35 are part of the United States Code.

    I have, however, met many inventors/authors who once started down the path from idea to product/work-of-authorship did something like one of your above wallet groups.

    E.g., "© 2013-2014 Ainste™®. All Rights Reserved. All Products Patent Pending."

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    James Jensen (profile), Aug 8th, 2014 @ 9:48pm

    Re: Re: innovation without patents

    It's really hard to demonstrate anything conclusively because both arguments are based on complicated what-would-have-happened-if scenarios.

    The case that copyright and patents are good for innovation has never been made in any concrete form, and even if that were established you still have the issue of whether the benefits to the public really outweigh the costs of enforcing the laws on a public that by and large doesn't seem willing to obey them.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    AJC, Aug 8th, 2014 @ 9:57pm

    Not entirely patentless

    I hate to ruin a central premise of the story, but I see on the Flexy 2.0 Kickstarter page that it's "patent pending".

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/520589318/flexy-20-titanium-un-wallet?ref=card

     

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

  6.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 9th, 2014 @ 1:05am

    Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    The case that copyright and patents are good for innovation has never been made in any concrete form

    It's sort of a funny stand, considering that our very discussion occurs in great part because of patents which made the computer revolution possible. But that is an aside...

    I think you also have to be careful in how you measure both "innovation" and "benefit". Innovation is a slippery term. What is the unit of measure? Is 100 small changes to an MP3 player better or worse than the advances of a product like the original iPod? Are colors of icons or rounding of the corners on par with building the first touch screen? It's hard to measure, so it's hard to compare the results.

    I can say though that I agree with Paean on this: Without patents (and to some extent copyright) it's entirely possible that the major investments in R&D to push something over the top from concept to reality would not occur. Patents and copyright make the big dollar end of many fields possible where it would otherwise be a poor investment.

    Now, if the investment is made because their is potential for return, does that not also benefit the public? Getting a drug to market 10 or 20 years sooner (if at all) gives significant benefit to the public.

    whether the benefits to the public really outweigh the costs of enforcing the laws on a public that by and large doesn't seem willing to obey them.

    At the point where the public stops supporting them is the point where the investment goes away and the public benefit goes away with it. Perhaps it will be replaced, perhaps not. The current level of disrespect for the laws of the land is endemic of a bigger problem in the world, one that doesn't start and end with copyright or patents.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2014 @ 2:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    "It's sort of a funny stand, considering that our very discussion occurs in great part because of patents which made the computer revolution possible. But that is an aside..."

    I suppose when the facts don't support your agenda you can just make up your own facts. Keep repeating the same lie over and over and eventually people will just get tired of always constantly correcting you.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2014 @ 5:33am

    Re: innovation without patents

    "Nobody says you absolutely need a patent to innovate."

    Except for those who do.
    Don't deny it, people have said that is the case.

     

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

  9.  
    icon
    Vidiot (profile), Aug 9th, 2014 @ 7:41am

    Re: innovation without patents

    Really, folks? Hit the "report" button every time we disagree with someone? I can see that for the haters, flamers and ranting lunatics; but this seems like a civil, rational discussion to me. Disappointing.

     

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

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2014 @ 9:48am

    Re: Re: innovation without patents

    I think smart phones are a good example of where frivolous patents have made them unnecessarily expensive and have hindered the technology (actually I can't really think of very many good examples where patents have really helped spur advancement. The pharmaceutical industry is another example of where patents have hindered it). Smartphones are a natural progression of the fact that computers are getting smaller, cheaper, faster, and more energy efficient while battery life is getting longer. So it's natural to transfer some of the functions that we do on the desktop onto the smartphone and add some features. Nothing really patent worthy there. So for companies to get a patent on basic UI ideas and form factor ideas (ie: rounded corners) and sue Samsung and anyone for natural advancements only hinders advancement. The fact that many frivolous smart phone patents were subsequently thrown out by various courts helps demonstrate how patents have only directed resources and money away from advancement and towards litigation and funding lawyers.

    In fact there was a website that used to extensively cover the problems IP caused to Android.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groklaw

    Unfortunately a bunch of IP extremists sought to uncover/unmask and sabotage the anonymous writer and there were various attacks on the site and so it closed. If IP is so defensible why is it that IP extremists try so hard to sabotage their critics? What do they have to hide? It's also not like the IP defenders around here are the most honest people around.

    Another site like Groklaw would be nice though. One where a good lawyer that specializes in the subject can follow these subjects very closely and discuss them. Unfortunately some things are hard to replace.

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2014 @ 9:52am

    Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    Here is a good video explaining how the early days of computing flourished because of a lack of software patents and how patents have been hindering advancements.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RPKtMTjXHg

    Luckily it seems like the courts have been paying attention because, as Techdirt has been noting, they've been mostly tossing out software patents lately and rejecting the idea that you can take a basic process and simply put it 'on the phone' and patent it.

     

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

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: innovation without patents

    Then where are the patents that tell me how to build my Smartphone?

    Patents are partly supposed to tell us how to do something that we wouldn't otherwise be able to do. The idea that someone can get a patent on something simple like the form factor of a phone or some broad patent on general ideas like what the phone does doesn't tell us anything useful. It's similar to just coming up with an idea and getting a patent on those ideas such as coming up with the idea of putting a camera on a phone and getting a patent on it. That's not useful information. A patent on what the phone does or its form factor provides us with nothing useful. Anyone can sit around and come up with ideas all day and the ability to come up with ideas is not something unique to patent applicants. Many people and companies come up with similar ideas independently and they conduct their own research on optimizing those ideas. They may compete on things like features or price. One company may have a phone with a better camera for those that want a better camera while another may have a phone with a better screen for those that prefer a better screen. Different companies will naturally try to establish different niches and they must all balance the cost of improving on each feature with the relevance to the niche they are trying to fulfill. So it's not easy for one company to simply copy another company and get a market share when the other company is more experienced at more efficiently producing a better product with more efficient and cost effective manufacturing processes. You can't just 'copy' your competitors because then you would have to know their underlying manufacturing processes and acquire their experienced employees to be able to produce the same product with the same features at the same cost. and that's what you're competing for and much of the valuable information is protected by trade secret. Where are the patents that tell me how to build my smartphone at the cost that Samsung builds it? The patents surrounding these things are absolutely useless, anyone can simply think of an idea and think to stick it on a phone but to actually do it and to do it with the same cost effectiveness and reliability so as to gain a reputation of being able to create a reliable product is what's difficult. If patents were really any useful things like this wouldn't be a trade secret but they would be publicly known.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2014 @ 10:31am

    Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    Patents should never be on 'features' and 'functions' because those are just basic general ideas that anyone can come up with. They should be on underlying cost-effective manufacturing processes that would otherwise be trade secrets so that they can reveal something useful. and this is another good example where most of the smart phone patents are composed of bad patents. Where is the patent that tells me how to build my smart phone?

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2014 @ 11:05am

    IP defenders always say 'but it's just so easy to simply copy'. If that's the case let me see you produce a smart phone identical to Samsung's. and let me see you do it at their cost. As an added bonus you can even use the available patents to help you. If it's so easy then prove it.

     

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

  15.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 9th, 2014 @ 6:55pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    Yeah, but you missed the point: The computer processors and such... software runs on something, connecting together by something... tons and tons of patent and copyright material between the two points.

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 9th, 2014 @ 6:57pm

    Re:

    I would say to you this:

    Go pay a visit to Shenzhen, China. Go see how many smart phones are being knocked out on a daily basis. Clones, copies, even improvements (like dual sim and such) all for a price lower than Samsung.

    The copying is the easy part. Without the original innovation, they would still be cloning Motorola bricks.

     

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

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 4:58am

    Re: Re:

    Fair enough. China allows for companies to better compete without patents getting in the way and so they are ahead of us. Also while it maybe cheaper in China their wages are lower. I think your post is yet another example of why patents aren't needed and only result in worse technology for a higher price.

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 5:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    And I think you are speaking out of your imagination again (well, really out of your dishonesty). The early days of computing were hindered by IP and it was either only after various patents expired or in areas where they weren't as strictly enforced that they advanced the most. And even you seem to acknowledge that one of the things that makes China a more attractive place for advancement is because they sre not so strict on IP and so companies are allowed to more freely create a better product for cheaper.

     

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

  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 5:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    Also, no one is arguing that advancement can't happen with IP just that IP most often hinders it. I think computers are another good example of it as the early days of computer advancement often tried to avoid the strict enforcement of IP and places like China (as you seem to acknowledge) seem to be ahead of the U.S. in producing better products for cheaper without letting IP get in the way (and the U.S., an IP happy country, doesn't really manufacturer this stuff, instead preferring to have it made in China where they face less restrictions while the U.S. just creates a bunch of worthless paper pushing lawyer jobs and gets patents for advancements made by various Chinese companies first so that some company in the U.S. can simply act as a worthless distribution monopolist while abusing IP to prevent others from competing within the U.S.).

    Besides, much of that computing stuff in also trade secret and there aren't really any patents that tell me anything useful like how to build a modern day smartphone or processor.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 5:20am

    Re: Re:

    "Without the original innovation, they would still be cloning Motorola bricks."

    Which is why I think we should abolish patents, because they hinder innovation in favor of directing resources towards paper pushing do nothing patent lawyers that contribute nothing.

     

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

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re: Re:

    China has embarked on a path that now includes R&D, but even then it still places heavy emphasis on reverse engineering (which requires, of course, that someone else does the heavy lifting...technically and financially). Moreover, China has adopted patent laws, but in far too many instances their laws are applied to favor domestic industry.

     

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

  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 8:07am

    I thought this was about wallets - seems to be about cellphones. Go figure.

     

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

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 8:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The idea that someone else is doing the heavy lifting is hilarious. Patent lawyers and patent firms do no heavy lifting. Lawyers are not engineers and they do no heavy lifting. They just get patents on obvious ideas and sue others. It's certainly not the case that the U.S. is doing any heavy lifting being that what we have are more lawyers and the engineers are in China. The U.S. places heavy emphasis on lawyers while China places heavy emphasis on engineers. Who's doing more heavy lifting.

     

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

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 8:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    and simply reverse engineering something doesn't tell you how to build it cost effectively. If your company lacks the experience and knowledge (ie: experienced employees) to build the product as cost effectively as the competitor than reverse engineering won't help.

    and the simple fact that China may have started to adopt patent laws doesn't indicate that patents spur innovation. As Whatever even seems to acknowledge China is more lenient on patents yet they are more innovative than the U.S.

    In fact the U.S. isn't innovative at all. We manufacture almost nothing and we are mostly composed of distributors that simply adjust products to the U.S. market (ie: change up the design to better fit the U.S. market), acquire patents to lock others out, and distribute the products in the U.S. That's not innovation. and a bunch of U.S. distributors aren't able to contribute anything non-obvious to the Chinese engineers that truly innovate other than to tell them how to cater the product to U.S. laws and culture. We've become a nation so fixated on fighting over who is allowed to do what through monopoly privileges that we literally innovate nothing. All we have are a bunch of easy paper pushing jobs in the form of distribution monopolies and patent lawyers that sit around all day and come up with ideas to get patents on. Hardly an inventive nor innovative country.

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 10th, 2014 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    just that IP most often hinders it

    I agree - but it's a chicken / egg sort of a problem. Without the initial investments and efforts, there would be nothing to hinder. So as an example, if a patent on CPU design (example) means that we got better processors faster, but that the price may be slightly higher for a while or the supply somewhat limited, we still got there faster to start with.

    Without the initial step, the rest didn't happen.

     

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

  26.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 10th, 2014 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    and the simple fact that China may have started to adopt patent laws doesn't indicate that patents spur innovation. As Whatever even seems to acknowledge China is more lenient on patents yet they are more innovative than the U.S.

    I am not suggesting great innovation. They are mixing and matching the features created by others, cloning, replicating, and somewhat refining things, but often with very poor results. I have seen phones that are perfect clones of a given model, but work poorly because they lack integration and testing.

    They aren't really innovative - they just have all the parts and the ability to make more, so they knock them out in huge volumes.

    we literally innovate nothing

    The issue of the US isn't a lack of innovation, rather it's a cost / return issue that is driving much of the development offshore. The real issues of the US are related to high wages and high costs to do business relative to other parts of the world. The US is still very innovative, many of the new products are initially created in the US or western world, but they are almost never produced there.

    That search for the lowest cost of manufacturing means that the innovative designs appear to be coming from other parts of the world, because that is where they are being built. It also allows those places to quickly play catch up, by handing them both the designs and methods by which they can be reproduced.

    Patents aren't the issue, costs are the main issue.

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Based upon this comment I have to wonder if you have any meaningful experience within any industry having a robust R&D sector.

     

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

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 10:27am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I take it that you are not associated with a US entity that engages in the research, design, development, manufacturing and support of manufactured goods. Nothing else seems to me would account for such an outlandish statement.

     

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

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    "Without the initial step, the rest didn't happen."

    This is just a normative statement that contributes nothing to the discussion. The question isn't whether the initial step is important the question is whether or not IP facilitates it and to what extent. In many cases IP often only hinders that initial step because everyone is afraid of taking it in fear of getting sued. Also IP diverts money away from that step and toward acquiring patents, licensing, and toward litigation and lawyers.

     

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

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "I have seen phones that are perfect clones of a given model, but work poorly because they lack integration and testing."

    Which is exactly the point being made. Copying is not as easy as you make it out to be and now you yourself seem to even admit this.

     

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

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Well sure they do marketing research to help cater the product to the U.S. market. But China are the ones that innovate and manufacture the product and bring it to market. The U.S. distributors simply do marketing research and tell China what they would like to order and China delivers. It's China that's being innovative by being able to deliver what we ask for. That's innovation. We simply tell them what we want and they deliver.

    The problem is that you confuse distribution with innovation and you confuse number of patents granted in the U.S. with invention. But why should I believe number of patents granted is a measure of anything productive.

     

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

  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 12:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    This has more to do with an MBA decision that outsourcing provides a financial advantage than it does with any sort of innovation capability comparison.

    The problem is that you do not grasp the big picture and confuse market share with capability.

     

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

  33.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Keep pretending there is a distinction and keep over valuing your contribution when your only contribution is to act as a distributor.

    The Chinese manufacturers are the ones creating what American distributors ask for and so they are the ones with the hands on experience, engineers, and workforce capable of producing what the customer wants.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 3:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "keep over valuing your contribution"

    This isn't about me.
    Your attempt to make it so is rather telling.

    Things are not black and white as you portray, as with most things it is a bit more complex. Even an undergrad who barely passes econ 101 knows that market share is not an indicator of capability.

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 10th, 2014 @ 6:52pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Copying is not as easy as you make it out to be and now you yourself seem to even admit this.

    You missed the point. The copy is just about perfect - all of the components are correct. Where they are generally lacking isn't in the ability to reproduce the good, but rather to integrate it property and test it to the highest standards. It's the only think that holds them back. Now companies like Xiaomi are now producing phones that not only match the competition on a component level, but also in execution and operation.

    It's quite similar to their car market. Their initial cars were often near perfect physical copies of popular cars from Japan and other places, but without the mechanical perfection, handling, or build quality. That is shifting rapidly, their cars are often well reviewed because they work well.

    Perfect copies lead to understanding how to do something, which leads to doing it.

     

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

  36.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 10th, 2014 @ 9:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    In many cases IP often only hinders that initial step because everyone is afraid of taking it in fear of getting sued.

    Your kidding, right? The one making the initial step has little to fear, they are first. Those who seek to profit from someone else's initial step by "innovation by paint color" have issues. The point isn't the first one to make an red whatever, it's the person who came up with the idea, design, and technology for the first whatever. If they didn't think that they could recoup their investment of time and effort to advance things to the point of a product in the market place (or at least a mechanism by which they can license it), they may not make that initial step.

     

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

  37.  
    icon
    Whatever (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 12:12am

    Re:

    Oh yeah, Humm wallet?

    U.S. Patent No. D690,931S
    U.S. Patent No. D695,013S
    U.S. Patent No. D701,043S
    CN 201230460775.9
    Other patents pending

    bellroy wallets have patents


    Boom... another bubble burst.

     

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

  38.  
    icon
    MrTroy (profile), Aug 11th, 2014 @ 12:54am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    It's sort of a funny stand, considering that our very discussion occurs in great part because of patents which made the computer revolution possible. But that is an aside...

    Yet again, citation needed. Then again, something as big as this would surely be substantively documented, wouldn't it?

    A search for "patents computer revolution" yields a lot of irrelevant stuff, but the first link goes here, which yields the following nugget:
    There are two main problems with using patent data to indicate the sources of invention. There is no way of telling which patents are important and which are of a minor nature, and moreover software cannot be patented. To illustrate this point, ICL can say that 'we have been able for many years successively to renew our patent agreement with IBM on a basis of no payment. We have been able to persuade them that we have sufficient value in patents to justify them making available to us all their patents without money being exchanged.' But this statement goes on: 'That is almost a unique situation in regard to IBM and its other competitors who seek licenses'...
    The second main problem is that universities do not patent the results of their research, thus the importance of their contribution is not reflected in patent data.
    ...In this table the first thing that is apparent is that the major theoretical advances are either attributable to individuals or universities, and the the first applications are commonly attributable to universities or the US Defense Department... This means that the commercial companies are not in fact generators of inventions but are mainly concerned in the development of university or defence department inventions to the stage of commercial application.


    So, how again did patents enable the computer revolution?

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 5:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    "So, how again did patents enable the computer revolution?"

    There is evidence it would not have happened if patents had been vigorously enforced.

     

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

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 6:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: innovation without patents

    "If they didn't think that they could recoup their investment of time and effort to advance things to the point of a product in the market place (or at least a mechanism by which they can license it), they may not make that initial step"

    Again, this is just a normative statement that does nothing to contribute to the conversation. No one is arguing that investors would invest into something that they don't think is profitable and to try to attack an argument not being made is a strawman. In fact, I think this is a good reason to abolish patents because they can create fear of getting sued when one does bring a product to market not to mention patents can increase the necessary investment cost due to litigation expenses, the need to apply for the patents before someone else does, and the need to research and get the necessary licensing required to make your product. So your points are a good reason to abolish patents being that they can deter investment and seem to do little to help it.

     

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

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 6:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "You missed the point. The copy is just about perfect - all of the components are correct. Where they are generally lacking isn't in the ability to reproduce the good, but rather to integrate it property and test it to the highest standards."

    no body is missing the point. The copy is not perfect because the copy isn't being properly integrated and tested and doesn't hold up to the initial standards. Customers are not going to want to buy a substandard product and so the first mover has a huge advantage. Whatever even seems to admit this now.

    "Now companies like Xiaomi are now producing phones that not only match the competition on a component level, but also in execution and operation."

    Which is a good thing because by the time they perfect it the market leader better be moving ahead and has incentive to keep advancing forward. Yet, despite this apparent lack of patent enforcement that you and Whatever seem to suggest you also seem to acknowledge (in fact the very quote I'm making seems to acknowledge) that advancement is still occurring. Xiaomi is advancing and the competitors that they allegedly copied are advancing and were still able to advance to their current point. What you are describing is how advancement happens in a competitive market and it works.

     

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

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 6:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As my earlier post says

    "As Whatever even seems to acknowledge China is more lenient on patents yet they are more innovative than the U.S."

    yet Whatever tried to argue in response

    "They are mixing and matching the features created by others, cloning, replicating, and somewhat refining things, but often with very poor results. I have seen phones that are perfect clones of a given model, but work poorly because they lack integration and testing. "

    but, as you said, those copiers eventually did improve their design and get better yet Whatever still seems to acknowledge that China is still more lenient on patents yet they are more innovative than the U.S.

    See, competition at work. The first mover advantage only lasts so long and then the original investor must advance more or else be taken out by the competition. and it works and results in lots of innovation and advancements.

     

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

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 6:17am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "Things are not black and white as you portray, as with most things it is a bit more complex. Even an undergrad who barely passes econ 101 knows that market share is not an indicator of capability."

    Yes, because when you have nothing to show as an indicator of capability simply point out that those indicators of your incapability are not necessarily definitive indicators of capability.

     

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

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 6:18am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's like people that have no quantitative abilities trying to assert that they have qualitative abilities. You know what you sound like? A sales man.

     

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

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 7:01am

    Re: Not entirely patentless

    Unfortunately in the U.S. it's prudent to get patents for defensive purposes. To acquire a patent from the patent office is like getting the patent office to acknowledge that no one else has a patent on this to sue you with. For instance

    "On November 21, 2012, 3D Systems filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Formlabs and Kickstarter for infringing its 3D printer patent US 5,597,520, ”Simultaneous multiple layer curing in stereolithography.” Formlabs had raised $2.9 million in a Kickstarter campaign to fund its own competitive printer.[122] The company said that Kickstarter caused "irreparable injury and damage" to its business by promoting the Form 1 printer, and taking a 5% cut of pledged funds.[123]"

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kickstarter#Patent_disputes

    The point is that people don't invest in kickstarter projects to get a direct monetary return on their investment. They invest because they want the proposed product to be made available one day. It would arguably be offensive to many investors if someone used a Kickstarter patent for offensive purposes and perhaps Kickstarter or those starting Kickstarter projects would be wise to have some kinda clause ensuring and assuring that their patents don't/won't get used in this unacceptable manner.

     

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

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 11th, 2014 @ 7:02am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    nobody *

     

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

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 5:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You are the only one selling anything here and it is a pile of excrement, no wonder no one is buying it.

     

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

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 12th, 2014 @ 5:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "when you have nothing to show as an indicator of capability simply point out that those indicators of your incapability are not necessarily definitive indicators of capability."

    Lol - wut

     

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Support Techdirt - Get Great Stuff!

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.