Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Reasons for inventing

Relevant to the article by Joseph Hosteny in the May 2005 issue of Intellectual Property Today, here is an excerpt from an article by Patricia L. Farnese, Patently Unreasonable: Reconsidering the Responsibility of Patentees in Today's Inventive Climate, 6 Tul. J. Tech. & Intell. Prop. 1 (2004).

People are drawn to invent for a number of reasons.

First, the instinct to invent is inherent in some people. Those possessing a creative mind derive great pleasure in devising ways and means of making life easier. These people invent tools, machines, and systems that are efficient and master the task at hand. As F.W. Taussig wrote, "the biographies
of inventors give abundant illustrations of the state of inward
happiness which comes from the exercise of the contriving bent." Similarly, an intellectual curiosity, possessed by some people, has resulted in significant inventions from mere accidents. Where others would have paid no attention to the outcomes of a chance interaction of previously unrelated items, others see a revelation. A
story involving Charles Goodyear serves as an excellent example of how invention can result from intellectual curiosity:

Standing before a stove in a store at Woburn, Mass., he was
explaining to some acquaintances the properties of a piece of sulphur-cured india-rubber which he held in his hand. They listened to him good-naturedly, but with evident incredulity, when suddenly he dropped the rubber on the stove, which was red
hot. His old clothes would have melted instantly from contact with such heat; but, to his surprise, this piece underwent no such change. In amazement he examined it, and found that while it had charred or shriveled like leather, it had not softened at all. The bystanders attached no importance to this phenomenon, but to him it was a revelation.

Other inventors may be motivated by the desire for esteem among their peers and public at large. To be the first to understand, to complete an impossible task, or to create an item that becomes indispensable garners great respect. It is for this reason that the receipt of a Nobel Prize is such an honor. [Recall the prize to Smalley and Kroto was for recognition that C60 had the structure of a truncated icosahedron, not for making C60 first.]


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