These days, it often feels like anyone who does anything even remotely innovative feels the need to rush down to the patent office, because that's what you always hear. There's so much talk about why everyone "needs" to patent stuff, that everyone starts to believe it. So it's somewhat refreshing to find someone who created something that really does appear to be useful, and has said that he has no interest in patenting it
. The guy is a hospital psych tech -- and came up with his invention a few years ago, after a fellow psych tech in the hospital was strangled to death by a mentally ill patient, who did so by grabbing the lanyard all staff members are required to wear, which holds their "alarm button" in case of emergency. Not surprisingly, this and a few similar incidents, had staff members at the hospital quite wary of wearing the lanyards, even though they were required. So Mike Jarschke came up with a new lanyard design, which has three "breakaway" points that will snap if the lanyard is pulled too hard. The hospital tested it out, and now they've been issuing the new lanyards to staff. After all that, he had no interest in getting a patent.
Jarschke didn't bother to patent his invention. There are other things more important than money.
"When we get safety for this hospital, that's going to be way better than money for me," he said.
Of course, watch now as someone else tries to get a patent on it. Either way, this actually reminds me of some research we pointed to a few years ago, showing that the vast majority of inventions occur not because of the direct profit motive of selling a product on the market, but rather because someone is trying to solve a need
for themselves. We see this over and over again, and it seems odd to have a patent system that covers those cases. It goes against every reasonable defense of the patent system. After all, the patent system is really only supposed to be an incentive to create a product that wouldn't exist but for the patent system being there to prop it up. And yet, patents are still granted on those kinds of inventions all the time. It's nice to see that at least some people don't see the need to go that far.