Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Evans observes "It's ok to steal"

About ten years ago, IPBiz recounted the story of the Harvard Business Review publishing an article including the text "plagiarize with pride" [See Harvard Business Review article: Plagiarize with Pride ]. One notes that one of the conclusions on innovation published in the Evans book [ They Made America; see point 3 in the image below ] is hauntingly similar:



The quote from Henry Ford in the Evans book is of interest in the context of Lemley's suggesting that anyone thought Ford "invented" the automobile and that Lemley was straightening us out on this point:

Think of the invention of the automobile, and it is hard to avoid thinking of Henry Ford. His mass-production model turned automobiles from individual, hand-crafted devices into mass-market products that we still recognize even today, such as the Model A and the Model T.

But Ford did not invent the automobile.

In contemplating invention, as distinct from innovation, it is important to understand what the invention is. Of the Wright Brothers, Lemley writes: "The airplane. Orville and Wilbur Wright, who ran a bicycle shop in Ohio, are known to the world as the inventors of the airplane. And they were indeed the first to fly a self-propelled heavier-than-air craft. But they did not operate in a vacuum." But the Wright Brothers' invention (and patent) was about three-dimensional control (not heavier than air flight), and the patent application was filed months BEFORE their December 1903 flight.

Similarly, Edison's invention related to the light bulb was of a high resistance, low current filament. Although Lemley writes -- Edison's particular inventive contribution was the discovery of a new filament - a particular species of bamboo - that worked better than Sawyer and Man's carbonized paper because it had a higher resistance to electricity and so turned more of the power routed through the bulb into light. Higher resistance was a useful contribution, though it is worth noting that Edison's core patent, U.S. Patent No. 223,898, was filed in a rush to beat known competitors to market and included elements like a spiral filament that he himself soon abandoned. -- In reality, Edison's US '898 was filed BEFORE Edison had even tried, much less succeeded with, the longer life bamboo filament. The invention was in teaching about high resistance.


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