Inventing: the future

The world of Intellectual Property is changing faster than the legal processes which apply to it. If it’s true that inventors suffer from Peter Pan Complex (we never want to grow up) then surely lawyers suffer from Captain Hook Syndrome: they are always running away from the ticking clock of technology.

The Law Society of England and Wales announced confidently, only a few years ago, that it was “Against Email.” Since the Internet’s arrival in Neverland, certain legal specialities have, unsurprisingly, become endangered.

The global scope of markets available to companies now means that they are selling direct to customers in countries where no meaningful patent-based protection is available for their products.

In addition, the lifecycles of even their most complex offerings is now so brief that the costs and timescales associated with seeking monopolies are prohibitive. So many organisations are now adopting a strategy based on some combination of the following approaches:

  • know-how, protected by secrecy and the physical thwarting of attempts at reverse engineering
  • investing in their brand, rather than a costly IP portfolio
  • moving from products to services which “leverage” these brands
  • fast product turn-around, yielding early sales

The pressure to deliver new products faster is now so great that virtual organisations are being formed of teams from competing companies. Based on trust (and working with no written contracts), they can deal with tight timescales in a way that would be impossible if they had to wait for lawyers to argue about due diligence and the minutiae of termination clauses.

My vision for the future of invention is that the market will support a large but limited number of big brands, each of which will feed on a complex, flexible web of cooperating, and competing, suppliers. These development organisations will continue the trend of relying for new product ideas on outside sources, rather than supporting a costly internal research function.

One of their main sources will be individual inventors who, having developed a track record, will be signed up to work for a fixed period and be rewarded in proportion to the commercial success of their inventions.

These people (such as Mark Sheahan) will form a ňúpremier league” of inventors and be in a position to command both massive payments and lucrative transfer deals.

How tragic that being an inventor is still associated with madness. You certainly have to be nonconformist, but that is really only a sign of mental illness to someone who has been to law school or its equivalents. Refreshing, therefore, that New Scientist offers this piece describing becoming an Inventor as a viable career choice.

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