Intellectual Property and Innovation–Perspectives from Jeff Lindsay
Intellectual property and innovation matters not just to me but to the US and global economies. As a US patent agent, as a former researcher and inventor with over 100 patents, as a former innovation and IP consultant, as the former Corporate Patent Strategist of Kimberly-Clark Corporation, and as the current Head of Intellectual Property for Asia Pulp and Paper in China, I’ve seen the many roles that IP can play in protecting and advancing innovation.
I’ve seen how important it is for large companies, but especially how important it is for inventors and small companies, especially start-ups in search of funding and fighting for a foothold in the competitive landscape. When small companies compete against giants, sound patents and reasonably sound patent law can be essential in giving small innovators a shot at success. Patents can be great equalizers that make the playing field more fair. Without them, market might dominates and giants can simply take what they want. Even with patents, that often happens, for the giants have the legal resources and teams of lawyers that sometimes make them feel like they can get away with anything. Were it not for the equalizing power of patents, the little guys would have little chance.
On this site I share some lessons about IP and innovation that may be helpful for innovators and inventors. One story is a classic David and Goliath story, or in this vase, David vs. Googleliath (VSL’s lawsuits against Google). It reminds us of the importance of patents, especially software patents, as a vital tool for innovators in some of the most important modern fields for economic growth. Sadly, the US Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit Court, and the US Patent and Trademark Office have been taking increasingly harsh stances against such patents, threatening to hinder innovation and seriously harm the economy, in my opinion. We need more judges and political leaders who understand that respect for property rights, including intellectual property rights, strengthen the economy. The simplistic thinking of “we’ll make everything cheaper and everyone happier if we kill patents” leads to an economy with reduced incentives for the difficult work of inventing and innovating while rewarding those who merely copy. But without respect for IP, what would there be to copy? If we abandoned IP a century ago, today we might be driving bright, shiny, cheaply made versions of the Model T Ford, mass produced in Vietnam or China. As a reminder, here’s one of the patent plates that was put on Model T cars, noting the many related patents:
Innovation often leads to better life, better jobs, and better opportunities for many. We can’t afford to kill it. Unfortunately, many factors operate against innovation success, making innovation harder and more discouraging than ever. Identifying and overcoming these factors is the them of my book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue, with coauthors Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar, published by John Wiley & Sons (2009). I share further stories and insights on my blog at InnovationFatigue.com.