It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


Study: Most Important Innovations Are Not Patented

page: 1

log in


posted on Dec, 1 2013 @ 12:09 PM
when people tell you that patents should be protected for "benefit" of innovation,
my first reaction is to point out a monopoly on ideas is actually a "brake" acting on future

most people who design important technology, don't do so for the eventual monetary reward,
they mostly do it because they see a need in society for something that is
more efficient,
more socially useful,
and my favourite, something that would be useful to the inventor in their own lives

here are the results that back up my view,

The authors searched the patent records for all of these innovations to determine which of them were patented or not, and conclude “a relative low number of important innovations are patented“. In particular, they found that only about 10% of “important” inventions are patented (this number varied a bit based on the industry). This implies that most important innovations are not patented. For most innovations, the innovating companies rely on trade secrecy, lead time/first to market advantages, or other strategies, instead of on the patent system.

One obvious conclusion to be drawn from this study is that patents are not a significant driver of most innovation, if 90% of important inventions are never patented in the first place.

in fact if you study the complex interplay between inventors and innovators of the most important designs,
you find that excessive trivial patents HARM rather than HELP the innovators and inventors who design
"the most important" innovations.


One obvious conclusion to be drawn from this study is that patents are not a significant driver of most innovation, if 90% of important inventions are never patented in the first place. Proponents of the patent system often claim that patents are necessary to provide an incentive to innovate; some even (ridiculously) claim that without patents, all innovation would grind to a halt (the truth is the opposite: if patents were made universal and had a perpetual term, all human life would grind to a halt; no offense Galambosians). But even if the 10% of innovations that are patented would never have resulted without the incentives provided by a patent system (an absurd assumption), the great bulk of technological innovations and breakthroughs in modern times would still have come about.

when you wrap your head around what this study has found, you will realise that if only 10% of the really important innovations were patent protected,

it makes it VERY clear that patents do not correlate to REAL design innovation,
and that HIGHER numbers of patents do not mean MORE innovation!!!

so increasing patent terms WILL NOT increase innovation, if any thing it will hinder future innovation and "constrain" the important designs and innovations from claims from trivial patent design holders.

the real threat here is that if extended, real innovation of "important" designs will be hampered by stupid obvious patents.

Penicillin, x rays, tissue culture, ether (anaesthetic), chlorpromazine, public sanitation, germ theory, evidence based medicine, vaccines, the pill, computers, oral rehydration therapy, DNA structure, monoclonal antibody, technology, smoking health risk.

How many entries in this list were patented, or were due to some previous patent, or were obtained during a research project motivated by the desire to obtain a patent? Two: chlorpromazine and the pill. Is this a fluke? We do not think so. In the same issue (freely available on line) of the BMJ you can find references to other similar lists. A particularly interesting one was compiled since 1999-2000 by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): a top 10 list of public health achievements of the 20th century in the United States. How do medical patents score on this one? Zero. The editor of the BMJ, recognizing the intrinsic arbitrariness of any top-N list, somewhere in the editorial presentation names her three beloved ones among the excluded, “Where are Aspirin, Helicobacter pylori, and Medline?” Good point, and we ask: do they owe anything to patents? Not at all.

when you really start to study this stuff,
you realise that any one saying "more patents equals more innovation"
is misinformed.


posted on Dec, 1 2013 @ 12:18 PM
reply to post by XPLodER

How could you patent The Computer?

So many people from different continents were involved in it's development.

posted on Dec, 1 2013 @ 12:23 PM
I see your point and agree to a point. I'd want to share something personal on this for context though.

Many years ago, I saw a need in trucking and I started down the road of inventing a way to fill that need. What I was working on was a Dash-Cam very similar in nature to the Police units but with some critical distinctions. Those would have made it very valuable to drivers in the majority of incidents where the driver wasn't at fault, a car was, but later lose the he said/she said war as a professional driver. It's not a friendly process to the trucker and never has been.

I'd gotten fairly far along in the planning stages when I did consult for some legal advice on how to keep from being the next inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper delay. (See legal history on that one).

Well, you don't see a nifty 'Trucker-Cam' product out there due almost entirely to that advice and confirming the accuracy of it.

I was told, very straight out and bluntly, I had a great invention but I wouldn't keep it. It would be stolen as soon as I began to try and shop around a bug-fixed and refined version of it, because I very obviously didn't have any resources to defend it...I.E. Patent and then the court fight to make the Patent actually mean anything... and others would see the truth of that before robbing me of my little invention.

If anything, I think patent laws need strengthened...BUT...redefined for focus to protect the little guys like me who WILL just move on to something else and leave a thing unrealized, before screwing with the mess and heartache of having it all be for nothing.

posted on Dec, 1 2013 @ 12:33 PM
reply to post by XPLodER

In particular, they found that only about 10% of “important” inventions are patented (this number varied a bit based on the industry)

I wonder how much that is influenced by the regulations governing how to apply for a patent. I bet its a red tape pain in the arse.

posted on Dec, 1 2013 @ 01:25 PM
I hate patents. Most of the patents out there have been created by ideas that were not the creation of the patent holder. I think that this system we have in the world sucks. Patents are just a way to gain wealth nowadays, they have no basis in reality. The more conniving you are, the better your chances are of getting rich with a patent. Why does a person have to get rewarded for creating something that benefits society. The thing about patents is that if you think you will ever benefit from this scam, you are probably mistaken. Most patents only drain people's savings accounts because they lack the knowledge of how to promote the sale and the finances to protect the patent. Most corporations buy the good patents or crush the person who will not sell the patent to them if it is profitable.

I have followed up on some ideas that were patented and have seen what happened. Forty years or more ago it wasn't as bad as it is now.

posted on Dec, 1 2013 @ 01:30 PM
I sometimes think the patent process was started up to take advantage of people like Wrabbit. A collective establishment where inventors and innovators can be legally ripped of their work. In saying that there could have been an awful lot of world changing inventions that have been lost to the world because the inventor had only monetary gain in mind or self obsession and destroyed their work rather than let anyone benefit. By benefit I mean for the betterment of mankind not for money. One striking example comes to mind Tesla. Inventing ground breaking things but destroying them and telling no-one about them. Some say Westinghouse bought up all Tesla s and is keeping them secret to protect their power investment. Also there are numerous reports of world changing innovations and inventions when having the patent applied for get took by the governments (for security reasons) for their own private and material needs. The only real change to patent law that desperately needs altering is that ALL genuine inventions be patented and be open for humanities use not hidden because it might upset a military balance or usurp a large corporation. For inventors and innovators (like Wrabbit) it's a fine line between the personal work put into it and giving it away for the good of humanity. The pure test will come (if it already hasn't) when someone discovers free energy. Do they give it away for free or sell it to big businesses to hide or make everyone pay. No one knows how many patents have been hidden or buried. For national security of cause.

posted on Dec, 2 2013 @ 04:10 AM
reply to post by Wrabbit2000

i have had a similar design in mind but a little more advance in that it included a gps and accelerometer and would only store data for a set distance or time before it is over written to help prevent the misuse of the information (would have reasonable profit margins being sold at around $150 retail obviously much cheaper if mass produced)
in fact im certain many many other people have had similar if not the same idea as you or i
why then should either one of us be the sole beneficiary of this idea that any number of people could have conceived independently (especially considering yours is evidently little more than a police dash cam.... something that im sure you had no part in innovating)
first come first serve?
what happens if the person who comes after demonstrates a far better ability to understand and advance the technology? "tough luck kid i was born first"?

sure there should be some level of compensation for the work put in but sole rights for an indeterminant period of time? (just a tiny alteration before your patent runs out and you can extend it over and over and over again with no real advancement)
i dont know about you but i was able to flesh out my idea in its entirety in a little over an hour..... hardly an effort worthy of comfort for the rest of my days.... really it was more just a fun fulfilling way of spending an hour
edit on 2-12-2013 by sirhumperdink because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 2 2013 @ 04:24 AM
Although the argument is well meaning, the truth is that awfully large number of things in these lists cannot be patented anyway, even if somebody wanted to.

Some obvious examples, are way too general in concept:

x rays, public sanitation, germ theory, evidence based medicine, vaccines, computers, oral rehydration therapy, technology, smoking health risk.


And going by what is presented in t his linked article I'd say the real reason that such things were never patented is because they would never have been allowed to be patented.

the liquid crystal display (1980),
the printer (1986),
and HDTV (1998)

Some of those dates given (the printer, in 1986???) for these are so retarded that it makes me assume the author is twisting things for sensationalist shock value.

Patenting may not be always the right thing to do, but the way the argument is presented there is moronic.

edit on amMondayfam1 by alfa1 because: (no reason given)

posted on Dec, 2 2013 @ 11:54 AM
reply to post by alfa1

if the world wide web was "licensed for individual use"
instead of open to all we would have no internet!

the open protocols of the internet and the technology it runs on is a powerful example of the benefits of putting societys needs above individual greed,

have you ever designed world changing tech?

would you rather make a billion dollars or make the world a better place?


top topics


log in