PdbAqB writes: "The average inventor is more likely to be:
1) Older -" there is a higher incidence of inventors aged in their 40s to 50s who file patents; and 2) Self determining — an inventor is less likely to be associated with a large firm or a university.
Inventors do not have disproportionally more genius genes, but are highly motivated and therefore are driven to make a difference. Studies of identical twins separated at birth indicates that creative thinking is:
a) less genetically based (estimated to be a one third contribution); b) more learning based (estimated to be a two-thirds contribution) leading to creating confidence in the capacity to create. What does the above profile represent? Why are inventors generally older? Is there a biological clock for inventing?
There are many exceptions to the above profile; however, perhaps we should consider the incidence of patent filing with the incidence of self-actualisation? That, to be a fully formed self, an individual has to move from the potential of "oewhat you can be" to realise what "oeyou must be". That is, you must fulfil your full potential.
Inventors need networks
To achieve self-actualisation as inventors, people need networks to form the basis of learning.
You and your hypothetical identical twin have the same ability and background. However, the outcome is different when you have an invention if:
a) you stay in the shed tinkering, whilst b) your identical twin communicates with many people from diverse backgrounds.
In the above scenario, your identical twin will have a better output. The difference within these results are realised within a week. Thus, communication is critical to develop inventions.
What role can a patent have? A patent helps an individual publish an identity as an inventor which provides the means to engage with a like community. The inventor then may learn from members of a like-focused community. This provides a basis for reflection for the inventor and growth for the inventive concept.
Patent filing, like self-actualisation, occurs at a later stage of one'(TM)s working life and has coincidences:
Self-actualisation takes place in less than 1% of the adult population. Likewise, inventors are also a rare species. Could this be because the tools to aid invention remain hidden from a large part of the population?
Inventors are nurtured and the tools for nurturing should be developed to capture invention.
Patent libraries are around the world could nurture inventors by incorporating communication tools and open their protocols to allow a web 2.0 site to flourish. Inventors and the community as a whole would benefit if patents databases become more accessible."
PdbAqB writes: Is open source patenting a possibility? Is patenting totally contradictory to the idea of open source?
There are plenty of people who espouse the view that patent protection is simply a tool for big business to flex its muscle and block access to innovation by small players and competitors.
However, the underlying rationale of patent protection is to force an invention onto the public record. Sure, the patent owner gets a monopoly but it is limited for a specific period of time (very limited if you compare it to the monopoly a copyright owner gets) and after that it is free for all to use ââoe down to the very last detail. In fact, you canâât get a patent unless you put in the detail.
So the patent databases in reality form the largest standardised library in the world...publicly accessible (no paywall / subscription fees) and reliable (at least in relation to granted or issued patents).
Why should the open source community consider patenting? Getting a patent for an invention blocks another party from getting a patent for the same invention. So, if a group of open source collaborators can secure a patent, it can choose to grant a royalty-free licence to the open source community to use it (just as open source software is licensed). This secures the invention for public use immediately. In other words, it blocks the ability for another party to patent that invention and prevents that other party from exploiting it for commercial gain. Check mate. Secondly, it secures the open source community the right to continue using the patented invention subject to the terms of the patent licence. A term of the licence may be that any modifications, enhancements or improvements are owned by the (open source) patent owner, thereby retaining all enhancements for public use.
Thirdly, open source patented innovations reside on patent databases and thus form part of the same public record, which makes the public record more comprehensive and useful to the community at large.
So, how is open source patenting workable?
One of the key hurdles to patentability is that an invention needs to be novel (new). This means it cannot be publicly known or used before the patent is applied for. How can open source collaborators collaborate without destroying novelty?
One suggestion for making it workable would be to exploit the âÅ"grace periodâÂ available under patent laws in countries such as Australia, Canada, Japan and the USA. A grace period means that you can still apply for a patent after disclosing your invention (sharing it with open source collaborators) so long as you lodge your patent within 6 to 12 months (depending on the country). Sure, itââs not foolproof because not every country has a grace period (Europe is a notable exception) but weââre talking about ways to overcome hurdles to enable open source collaborators to tap in to the benefits of patenting.
Another suggestion is that a project be flagged for patenting at its inception (before any detail is provided) and collaborators sign up under an NDA before they can view and contribute. For example, an inventor could:
1. provide a high level view of their invention onto a site; 2. invite contributions or help from the peer to peer to join in drafting a patent description; 3. interested participants could subsequently request to join the community specifically associated with drafting that patent description; 4. The inventor and associated community can then let the new contributor join if they show skills that are helpful to the patent's description generation; and 5. All contributions would be logged against each contributor so as to determine if they are making a technical or inventive contribution.
What about costs?
Building a community of particular skill sets to help draft the description of an invention for a patent would offset patenting costs and aid in obtaining a contribution by a community in an Open Source manner. The patent once described (e.g. as per the steps above) could have a patent attorney draft the claims or oversee the claim drafting, rather than being involved throughout the process. If the patent is successful, then: 1. it could be offered as a kernel to build further inventions off via divisional patents, etc. 2. if there is a commercial use (even by donation) then any funds received can be made available for use: a. by the contributors/inventors, or b. the community to promote further open source patent opportunities such as a contribution for payment of Official Fees in each jurisdiction.
We see this approach as an open source solution to promote access and availability to the excellent resources available both in the community and in the patent offices around the world.
PdbAqB writes: "has the race finished? The race started with the establishment of neuro-informatics, using software to analyse the 120-million-base-pair genome of the fruit fly. The USA's Craig Venter's via his firm Celera challenged established government funded science and started the race then to sequence the human genome and patented software and algorithms that were used to analyse it, along with patents on drug target 150 genes. My understanding is that these patents did not, & do not, limit academic research into the human genome and that Venter's team was a major contributer to public gene libraries.
Where does the race end? Craig Venter in his book "A Life Decoded" started that the artificial cell was the next step, where drugs could be trailed by inserting cassettes of genes into DNA to model answers to disease and genetic deformities: Craig Venter is inspirational & what a decade!"
PdbAqB writes: "Current circumstances that give rise to opportunity for better collaborative effort to help both tech startups and out of work lawyers:
1) Layoffs are common place (http://techcrunch.com/layoffs/ gives current layoffs at 350,299 since August 2008). This includes lawyers and patent attorneys who need work — http://bit.ly/cEcGVD; 2) Startups are one way of getting through this downturn; startups can use help with patents, legal advice and direction but are strapped for cash; 3) Lawyers who are starting out on their own, laid off from the big firms or "between jobs" represent an emerging sector of the legal/attorney profession; 4) Startup law firms or out of work lawyers are a cost-effective option for start-ups with a lower cost base than the big firms but with the relevant big-firm expertise; 5) There is government funding to assist start-ups with IP protection (in Australia it includes Comet Grants and EMDG grants http://bit.ly/daDpqi), reducing the hurdles for startups to seek IP protection.
How can lawyers and tech startups collaborate to help? We have web based tools which can connect: 1. Startup X with Attorney Y as a node; 2. Keep communications privileged and/or confidential; and 3. Provide an unlimited number of nodes (i.e. set up an unlimited number of startups with different attorneys).
I went solo 4 years ago & have not looked back (http://www.1p.com.au). We can, along with others, offer what we learnt in going solo, then growing, to provide greater options to those who are laid off. We are small, but we can help!
We can use technology to help establish relationships between tech startups and attorney/law firm startups with the right expertise. First, we need attorneys who are interested to contact us so we have resources to refer to tech startups. As a profession, we believe that it is worth working together to help. Collectively, let’s help!
PdbAqB writes: "Use a patent application to punch holes in your startup offering so that you can identify hurdles. It is also a means to model your offering and its positioning in the market without first risking your house/saving...It is a comparatively low cost approach which helps you to identify the detail and iron out some of the hurdles to getting your offering to market.
1. Does your startup offering (whether a product or a service) solve a problem or address a need?
Dont let it be something you have to rationalise with proposed market trends when you explain it as" you may have a solution but don(TM)t justify its veracity with puff!
2. Can you describe your offering?
Drilling into the detail required for a patent application is useful for developing the detail of your offering for the market.
3. How will your offering come together?
How will it come together? What are the components or bits that need to work together to deliver the benefit that you have described? In patent terms, this is referred to as the embodiments of an invention.
What is your target market?
Can you describe your offering so you can change direction with agility? Markets change, in some fields very quickly. Thinking through the embodiments and arrangements of your invention early on also enables you to manage quick changes in direction as the need arises.
4. Can the market understand your offering?
From a usability stand point, your patent needs to describe your offering sufficiently so that the target audience can get your offering quickly and easily from your description.
5. How different and inventive is your offering from the competition?
Have you covered off your offering in the simplest possible way so your competition cannot further simplify it and make it sticky to the market?
What i(TM)s the competitive landscape?
6. Why have others failed?
Identifying the oeprior art that exists in the same technical field as your invention is a part of the process when trying to apply for a patent. Understanding the relevant oeprior art (what else is out there that offers a similar advantage/feature, what advantages and disadvantages does the prior art have) helps your startup to identify the competitive advantage of its offering to the marketplace.
Whose toes are you treading on?
This also raises the important question of: do you have the freedom to operate in the market? This goes to infringement risk and is unfortunately often forgotten in the excitement of getting a new offering to market.
7. What are the obstacles that the competition has in place?
Are you treading on somebody else’s offering to the market (i.e. their kernel) & do you need to acknowledge this? Test this on paper with a patent as a means to flush out your SWOT before you launch your offering on the market.
The value proposition
From here you can build your "value proposition" – why people would want your startup’s offering.
8. Do you have a "value proposition"?
A common misconception among individuals who come to us with “the next big thing – I just need to patent it and sell it for millions” is a lack of detail. Having gone through the process of preparing a patent application (whether or not you take the step of applying for a patent), helps you to identify your offering’s value proposition.
Value = exit
If your offering has teeth, can you exit with cash in your pocket? A patent enables succession – you can get the cash and make the dash...to your next startup.
9. What is your exit plan?
A patent lives for 20 years and so it encourages you to see an end. Companies often forget the necessity to continuously innovate...and to reap the benefits from exiting one innovation and moving to the next.
Modelling your offering to the market via a patent is a means to create revenue and to test your offering before burning your, or your family + friends, cash. Remember, you are the one taking the risk. Putting a patent into place can stop others from stepping on you. It is also a means to model the offering and its positioning in the market without first risking the house.
Test your startup proposition by stepping through the detail needed to put a patent into place. Consider investing in your key startup asset by putting patent protection into place before you launch.