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Posts Tagged ‘Innovation’

The America Invents Act Has Been Signed Into Law

September 22, 2011 Leave a comment

I have written posts on spurring innovation and patents, both of which the America Invents Act that was signed into law last week deals with.  The aim of the patent system reform, shifting to a first to file method from the current first to invent, is to increase the drive to develop new technologies as well as simplify the process of granting patents.  While the new system is used by the majority of countries in the world it will be another 18 months before the law takes effect in the United States.  There is a great deal of speculation in the blogosphere and media of the impact this significant overhaul will have, and I encourage those interested to search for some.  Possibilities include the creation of 12 million new jobs or just more of the status quo; however, what actual effect the new law will have after nearly two years will be interesting to see, besides guaranteeing funding for the Patent Office.  My hopes are the both goals of the law are met.

Moderately related further reading on patents and invention I have found interesting is professor Mark Lemley’s “The Myth of the Sole Inventor,” and a critique of his article by John Howells and Ron D. Katznelson.

Drive to Innovate

September 8, 2011 1 comment

I agree with the notion that to make your mark you need to not only do your job or run your business well, you need to innovate.  I happened to read an article at FastCompany.com yesterday that reinforced the idea called, “Thomas Friedman To United States: Innovate Or Else.”  One of the quotes that stuck out to me was:

Nor is innovation confined to the private sector. “The army’s on to all of this,” says Friedman, “their lives depend on it.” In an eye-opening interview, America’s top armed forces official, the future Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Martin Dempsey, tells Friedman that the need to innovate is eroding the hallmark of the military: hierarchy. In the past, “we would have said we want men who are physically fit, educated, and disciplined. Now, what we way is that we want someone who wants to belong to a values-based group, who can communicate, who is inquisitive, and who has an instinct to collaborate.”

I may have to pick up a copy of this when I get back to the states, but in the meantime I actually checked out a copy of Successful Innovation, by Michel Syrett and Jean Lammiman, from the library at my office park.  So far it seems to be making the case that companies need to innovate to stay competitive.  Specifically to quote the back cover:

Successful Innovation is crucial to a business’s competitive edge, even its survival, but study after study reveals that many organizations are failing to tap the potential of their staff.

The quick one sentence summary on the cover seems to agree with Freidman’s point above, but the book was written 10 years ago.  I don’t think that these writers viewpoints have gone unheard, I believe almost everyone understands the need for innovative ideas and people; however, I think people fall into the trap that Nilofer Merchant writes about in her post on the HBR Blog Network.  She writes that people are often afraid to speak up and put forth the ideas that need to be said, the ones that are sometimes obvious and right in front of us but never get shared.  The difficulty is the same many teachers face in the classroom, how to get those students/members of your group to speak up and contribute.  To get over the fear of being wrong.  So I will end this post with the words she wrote to motivate us.

The silence needs to be broken. And perhaps risking being the fool is necessary to move forward. Underlying all that is courage — Courage to speak, courage to risk, courage to step forward rather than sit quietly. Courage to break the silence and when you do, the blind will see, the different viewpoints will be heard, and we can reduce suck-ness where we work.

Could it be….you’re ready to speak up?

Patents, Patents Here, Get Your Patents

August 25, 2011 1 comment

While I have no aspirations to be a patent lawyer, patents and patent strategy has interested me since I started business school. Lucky for me, there has been a lot of news in this area providing me with ample reading material lately. Scrolling through the your favorite tech website, currently Engadget in my case, or any news portal and you will inevitably find headlines dealing with patents. Even the blogs I read at The Economist or New York Times will frequently speak about them from different perspectives (here, here, and here). My habitual visit to the Economist’s homepage today revealed a home page story on patents, called Inventive Warfare, which summed up some of the issues making news:

A scramble for patents had already begun. In December four companies, including Microsoft and Apple, paid $450m for around 880 patents and applications owned by Novell, an ailing software firm. In July those two and four others, including Research in Motion, maker of the BlackBerry, spent $4.5 billion on 6,000 patents owned by Nortel, a bankrupt Canadian telecoms-equipment maker. Before its latest deal, Google bought 1,000 patents from IBM. Firms are also suing each other. Apple claims its technology has been copied by Samsung and Motorola in their Android phones. Oracle is suing Google for up to $6 billion, claiming that Android infringes its patents. Microsoft is suing Motorola over Android too. Nokia recently settled a similar quarrel with Apple.

If The Economist were to have expanded its scope to the tele-communications industry as whole their list of lawsuits and patent deals would have made that paragraph above much larger. Further into the article the case is made that firms are beginning to be valued based on their patent holdings to a much greater extent, making the example of various companies’ stock prices rising after the Google deal. I am not certain if that is only in the mobile phone space, were companies are using patents to defend market share, or the industry as a whole; regardless, patents are not just becoming a bigger part of the game in the just mobile phone space.

China, notorious for failed IP protection in the past, is changing its position on patents. An article by Rachel Armstrong at Reuters.com starts off:

China’s telecom giants are building up a war-chest of patents to help give them an edge in the legal battles raging between the world’s smartphone makers, aided by Beijing’s push to transform the country from workshop to innovator.

It’s part of the country’s plan to increase innovation and make it a high-tech powerhouse, where the government subsidizes patent applications and has been increasing IP protection. The article provides a useful statistical summary of what is going on, as in China’s patent applications rising 83% since 2006; which places it in third place behind the US and Japan with 313,854 patents. Big filers from China being ZTE and Huawei. Subsequently, also on the rise is the demand for IP lawyers with cases in this area increasing 37% last year to 41,718 and salaries increasing.

The belief that patents are going to spur innovation aren’t only held by China’s central government. Another Economist article  contends that budget reductions at the US Patent Office are going to further hurt economic growth by limiting the number of patents granted in the US, and that patents have at least a marginal relationship with job creation and economic growth.

While I don’t doubt that, I feel there are a great deal of other issues with patents that have economic impact. Just as an example if Google truly is buying Motorola for its patents, that deal along with the others listed above equals $17.45 billion spent on IP alone. I, along with others, ask the question how many other ways could jobs or the economy been improved with that level of spending? Now I understand it’s the business environment they are responding too, but with substantial reforms to patents and IP could that money have been spent on actual new innovation?

I’ll save some thoughts on patent reform and innovation for another post.

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