Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Bark Plain Traveldog

Good Idea: Reinventing Invention

Innovation used to be easy. Imagine the caveman, forced to move a giant rock, discovering by accident that rolling it on a log made the job easier.

Luckily, the concept of intellectual property wasn't around then. Today, that same caveman would've filed a patent and demanded licensing payments from anyone else who wanted to roll things on logs or other cylindrical objects.

Fortunately, the knowledge-as-asset age has arisen at a time when most obvious inventions -- the wheel, hammer, processed-cheese spread -- are already invented. New innovations, sampling from patent applications published in recent months, have names like Parallel leading bit detection for Exp-Golomb decoding and Method and apparatus for s.i.p./h.323 interworking. They're probably not the sort of things you, too, would have come up with had you the spare time and an empty garage.

As for corporate R&D, von Hippel says companies are finding that more and more innovation is coming not from in-house developers, but from products users who do their own re-engineering.

"People are innovating for themselves," he said. "That's what has happened and economists are really puzzled about it because economists are fosuced on this IP-based system."


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