Archive for October, 2012
One of the most serious factors contributing to innovation fatigue in the U.S. and many other nations can be the failure of government to protect and enforce property rights, including intellectual property rights. When the fruits of invention can be plucked by anyone without benefit to the inventor, when the risks and costs of innovation provide no benefit to the innovator apart from a first mover advantage in the market place, then the incentives to invest, to sacrifice, and to bear the pains of innovation are diminished. Frankly, why spend ones time and money inventing and innovating if the results cannot be protected to benefit those who sacrificed and paved the way?
As we argue in Conquering Innovation Fatigue, that nations with good IP systems tend to have stronger, more vibrant economies. China gets this and is building its future with a growing emphasis on IP, even as the West thinks China has no IP. Meanwhile, many in the West seem to have bought into the lie that IP hinders economic progress, and have joined the anti-patent bandwagon. It’s a fast road to innovation fatigue.
Sadly, the latest to join the anti-patent parade is one of the most powerful entities on earth, the Federal Reserve Bank of the United States. That’s right, the secretive, unelected, unaccountable organization that has overseen the erosion of about 95% of the value of the dollar since its inception, the institution that repeatedly turns to “legal counterfeiting” with non-stop printing of money created from thin air as the addictive cure-all for America’s economic problems, now dares to expand its influence into not just eroding your financial property, but also your intellectual property, with a call for the elimination of patents: “the final goal cannot be anything short of abolition.” Ouch.
The mega-government, Keynesian mentality behind Quantitative Easing and the other voodoo tools of the Fed can naturally lead to a hostility toward property rights of all kinds, so the assault on patents is not necessarily out of character for the Fed, though certainly far afield from their supposed area of responsibility and certainly far from any hint of expertise. Yet they have had the audacity to publish a report pretending to offer economic analysis into the harm of patents with a call for the ultimate demise of patents. This is disturbing stuff.
The failure of the USPTO and the patent problems that are given so much publicity are generally not inherent to IP rights but are largely due to the failure of the USPTO to ensure that quality searching and examination is done. Issuing loads of worthless patents can create serious problems. It is easy to focus on the loss caused by bad patents, as we do in a chapter of Conquering Innovation Fatigue, but one must also consider the even greater loss caused by no patents and easy theft of IP. The solution, again, is not to abolish IP, but to strengthen the USPTO so they can and must perform quality examination, prevent the siphoning of funds by Congress from the USPTO, and strengthen our patent system so it is less capricious (real patent reform, perhaps beginning with eliminating the vague and unpredictable 101 assaults on patents when some computer method is involved).
We must say no to the Fed’s attempt to add yet another devastating failure to its track record, or rather, to prevent one more success in reducing the value of the property held by Americans.
The new intellectual property book by Nick Nssing, Patents and Strategic Inventing: The Corporate Inventor’s Guide to Creating Sustainable Competitive Advantage (McGraw-Hill, 2013) is a refreshing guide to help inventors and leaders in corporations. It is a collaborative work with a variety of contributors (myself included) providing a few chapters in addition to the excellent core material from Nick.
Nick has many years of inventing and IP strategy experience at Procter & Gamble and Monsanto, where he is currently the Biotech Strategy Lead. He is also founder of Luminosity LLC, a consulting firm focused on new product development and patent strategy for large corporations. He is also an adjunct professor at Washington University. I’ve known Nick for a number of years and have been impressed with his approach to IP strategy and his business sense when it comes to IP.
This book provides a rich variety of material to help corporate inventors. Too often corporate inventors just sit back and let the attorneys handle everything, but Nick’s book shows that much better results can be achieved when the inventors are educated in patent strategy so that they can invent more strategically and work with the attorneys more effectively.
Part 1 offers a sound introduction to patentability, patent searching, and the role of the corporate inventor, and then explores patents in light of the America Invents Act. Many highly practical nuggets are there such as Chapter 9, “Working with Your Attorney: Nine Steps to a Better Utility Patent,” which offers insights from Byron Olsen, assistant general counsel at Monsanto. This section provides very practical information including a recommendation that inventors work with the attorney to “superinvent,” adding new concepts and uses for the invention to greatly broaden and strengthen the patent.
Part 2 deals with Patent Strategy, followed by Part 3, “Strategic Inventing.” These two sections get into more advanced topics such as building portfolios, analyzing landscapes, life-cycle management of IP, disruptive innovation (that’s my chapter: “Intellectual Property and Disruptive Innovation: Strategies, Tactics, and Lessons from China”), TRIZ, and guidance on implementing patent strategy at the project level. Overall, I find the book to be fresh, original, clearly written, and a good example of how one expert author can add value by collaborating with other contributors.
For more information, see the book’s website, StrategicInventing.com.