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Posts Tagged ‘inventor’


Great American Inventor Steve Jobs Dies

Steve Jobs was an inventor on over 300 patents.  He is the quintessential American inventor entrepreneur.  He and Steve Wozniak started Apple in January of 1977.  The company went public in December of 1980 and was the largest IPO (Initial Public Offering) since Ford in 1956.  Apple goes on to launch the MacIntosh in 1984 with its now famous television ad that played off the book 1984, where IBM played the role of Big Brother.  This launches the graphical user interface (GUI) as the standard for computers.[1]

This fairy tale start to Apple is marred by John Sculley, former president of Pepsi, being appointed CEO of Apple and firing Steve Jobs in 1985.  Strangely enough, Jobs foreshadowed this event in his Playboy interview in which he talked about how Polaroid fired Edwin Land, their creative founder and how Polaroid floundered  thereafter.  Once Jobs was fired,  Apple floundered for over a decade, and in the late 1990’s was all but dead.  Jobs returned to Apple 1997 and to profitability by 1998.  This is a cautionary tale for all those management gurus who ignore the technical creative genius and believe running a business is all about people skills, management, or finance.  Real wealth is created by invention and Jobs was a consummate inventor as his patent record shows.

An interesting question is raised in the book Great Again is could Apple have been successful today?  They answer the above query with a series of questions:

Could a twenty-year-old college dropout, just back from six months in an ashram somewhere, attract funding for a capital-intensive venture based on the manufacture (yes, they manufacture) and sale of a $2,500 consumer product unlike any that had ever been bought by consumers before?  One whose potential uses were at best unknown, and possibly nonexistent? And one for which the total current market size was exactly zero?

Not only could Apple not get funded today, it probably could not go public. Nor would Apple have received its first patent (USPN 4,136,359) in only 20 months.  The book asks “how many of today’s Apples are not getting a chance?”  Perhaps the death of Steve Jobs is the right time to examine this question.


[1] XEROX’s PARC center deserves a significant amount of credit for inventing the GUI.  Unfortunately, the FTC’s absurd attack on XEROX in the early 1970s for being a technological leader caused this great American company to pull back on commercializing a number of great inventions, including Ethernet.  This is a shameful history in American government that is being repeated today.  For more information see http://hallingblog.com/jobs-the-economy-and-patents/.

 

 
First-to-File vs. First-to-Invent

My good friend, Gene Quinn, of IPWatchdog, has am interesting post on the present patent reform bill.  http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2010/04/04/kappos-round-table-listening-continues-on-campus-of-uspto/id=10002/

His post brings up several interesting points.

Interferences & Independent Invention

If there were only 55 interferences last year, how come all the people calling for patent reform state that independent invention happens all the time?  If independent conception of inventions are so common you would expect a lot more interferences.  While I would grant you that the PTO is very reluctant to declare interferences, even taking this into account it shows very little independent invention.  So all the people calling for patent reform claiming that technological progress is inhibited because they are not allowed to practice their independent inventions appear to be disingenuous at best.  What is more likely is that they have not independently derived these inventions and they just do not pay a license fee to the true inventor.

First to File vs. First to Invent

The proposed solution for the first to file conversion is the scaled down one year grace period.  Your post clearly points out the limitations of this provision – namely it only protects the inventor against bar issues, but does not protect them from thieves that file a patent before the true inventor.  This does nothing to preserve our patent system for independent inventors or start-up companies.  No one with any resources and knowledge will rely on this scaled down one year grace period.  Within a decade of having passed this reform, people will argue that the one year grace period is meaningless and we should just move to a true first to file system.  Given the cost of filing a patent this will be the nail in the coffin of American Entrepreneurialism.  The patent system will just be for large entrenched companies who create incremental inventions.

Cost of Interferences

Your argument sounds logical.  Since most independent inventors cannot afford the cost of an interference, we will just get rid of them.  This correctly identifies the problem, but proposes an unjust solution.  A just solution is to reduce the cost, time, and formalism associated with interferences.  Logically, the inventor is the first one to conceive of the invention and reduce it to practice.  We need a system that is just and practical.  A practical system that is not just will lead to unintended consequences.  For instance, the publication requirement has led to our patent system giving away our technology to the rest of the world.  The practical answer was to publish our patent application and conform with the rest of the world.  The just and practical answer was to fund the PTO fully, eliminate needless formalities to patents and have patents issue in under one year.  The just and practical answer would have ensured that the US stayed the technological leader of the world and therefore economically vibrant.  Our present economy is the result of the sin of being practical but not just.

24 Month Provisional

While I am not inherently against this proposal, I can just hear the critics screaming “submarine patents.”  Extending the time to 24 months from 12 months that a provisional patent application allows the applicant to file a regular patent application sounds like a practical solution, however the better answer would be to streamline the process of applying for a patent.  We should work to reduce the time it takes to obtain a patent, reduce the cost it takes to obtain a patent, and reduce arbitrary rules required to obtain a patent that add no real value to the patent system.

Real Patent Reform

Nothing in the present patent reform proposal does anything to solve the real problems faced by inventors.  Instead of agreeing to a less bad patent reform bill, which should trash this bill and start over.  The number one issue that has to be in any patent reform bill is to stop fee diversion.  Fee diversion is fraud pure and simple.  If Congress had to live up to Sarbanes Oxley, they would all be in jail.  We need to repeal KSR.  Any objective system of patentability is better than a subjective standard for entrepreneurs and businesses.  (Only a judge or a trial lawyer thinks a subjective test is just).  For more on real patent reform see Real Patent Reform.

 

            The U.S. has been the most innovative country in the history of world.  “Virtually every major development in technology in the twentieth century – which was far and away the most important century in the history of technology – originated in the United States or was principally industrialized and turned into consumer products here.”[1]  The economic success of the U.S. is due to its technological innovation.  The first colony was only possible because of two new technologies – the full-rigged sailing ship and the joint-stock company.  This inventive spirit has continued to the present with the Information Age, which was founded in the U.S. and based on the internet (ARPANET) invented in 1969. 

 

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