Monday, July 09, 2007

An Example of How Invention and Products Should Work way of an example of the antithesis. I've long held that patents should last 5-10 years, depending on whether the product is of digital or physical medium, respectively. The best way to keep inventing is to keep having pressure to invent - this is why we saw so much research coming out of World War II. It took us 30 years to piece it all together and perfect the work started there (and perfecting that work extends to modern times).

But in the world of big business, lobbyists have helped set up laws that stifle competition, that server the business interest, not other businesses or the people. That's rather stupid.

Take this article, for example:

[Source: If You're So Concerned About Piracy, Don't 'Invent' A Cheap, Easily Imitated Product - Techdirt]

Certainly anybody with patents, copyrights or other intellectual property has every right to enforce them, or at least try to. But a point we've made is that it often makes more sense for a business not to waste resources trying to enforce its IP rights and shut down its competition, and instead to focus on continual improvement and innovation. The WSJ's got a piece detailing a small company's fight to keep companies from selling cheap imitations of its product -- "a plastic cage that looks like a Wiffle ball and prevents bras from getting tangled in the spin cycle" called the BraBaby. The company of ten employees' boss apparently spends countless hours online and in Asia tacking down makers of the knockoff products, and from the sound of things, he's having little success, despite his patents and trademarks. So, with all that effort in mind, what's the point? If your invention is a cheap piece of plastic that's easy to copy, clearly you're going to have a problem dealing with imitators and knockoffs should it become successful. If you're a small company making such a product, trying to clamp down on those imitations is, as the article makes clear, going to be a long and difficult practice that stands little chance of success, so your resources would be better devoted to improving your product and staying ahead of your rivals. Contrast the approach of the company behind the BraBaby to that a maker of a similar product, the BraBall. That company holds a patent for its product that predates the BraBaby, but an exec says it doesn't plan to sue, instead, it's "competing on quality." If the only way you can succeed in the market is by keeping your competitors out of it, whatever advantage you have is fleeting. To remain successful, you need to continually have the best product, not the only product. And how does chasing the makers of knockoff goods to the far ends of the earth help you make a better product?

I make this post so I have something to refer to when I bring this up again.

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