Re: Selling Creativity

Michael S. Lorrey (
Wed, 19 May 1999 19:25:43 -0400 wrote:

> jonwill wrote:
> "The profit motive as facilitated by the patent system promotes private
> research efforts. It would be interesting if someone could devise a way
> to increase such efforts."
> The patent system has been a good way to ensure that inventors are
> rewarded for their efforts, and it has provided incentive for people to
> invest time and money on the research necessary to create new inventions.
> However, the patent system was created before the Internet, and the
> Internet allows for more effective ways of rewarding creative people and
> thus promoting greater creativity.

The best and easiest motivator for inventors is money. The greatest need for quality research beyond high quality brains is also money. Restructuring the current tax system to make it profitable for individuals and corporations to invest more in research themselves as they see fit will IMHO be the greatest benefit.

On the other side of the coin, we can look at who does the most patenting. Large corporations have a higher patent to researcher ratio than smaller corps and individuals. Why is this? Possibly because they have more resources to do high quality research, but I think that it has more to do with the fact that large corporations have large departments of trained and specialized lawyers who do nothing but patent work for the corporations.

Small groups and individuals will get more patents if the patent system is structured so that it is easier for them to research prior art and write patent applications themselves (or make it a useful tax writoff for patent lawyers to do pro bono work). It would also be nice if the fee structure were changed so that a person could finance the patent fees off of royalty earnings.

> I would like to see the development of a system where creative
> individuals can sell their ideas through the Internet. Those looking for
> ideas to buy could read brief descriptions of the idea and could then pay
> to access more details. Those selling ideas would decide how much they
> want to sell the details of their idea for and how they want the price to
> change over time. Of course, anyone would still be able to get a patent
> on their ideas; I'm just thinking about a system for actually marketing
> and making money on ideas.

You are talking about the newest and hottest area of intellectual property: Proprietary Trade Secrets. The Trade Secrets Act of 1996 lent new power and protection for owners of unpatented and uncopyrighted Trade Secrets, however it is still a very weak area. I know that CNA Insurance is hyping its Trade Secret Insurance Policies now. I just received a floppy disk yesterday from them with pdf files about their policies. The problem is that there is no centralized repository trade secret registrations, and there is no Constitutional basis for the concept of Trade Secrets as a form of property that people had a right to have protected.

Because of this lack of Natural Law protection, any private system of centrally registering trade secrets is going to be fraught with difficulty in enforcing cooperation and compliance with any contract based system of protecting registered trade secrets. If there is no prior art basis for granting trade secret protection (i.e. nobody has thought of it yet), there could be literally thousands of identical trade secrets in the registry at the same time, so if a company is looking to buy that trade secret, who do they pay? All of them, or just the one written the best? Once they've seen your trade secret, and discard it, but they select another that has partial overlap with the first, are your rights violated? Who decides?

> Lets say I came up with an invention that I know several competing
> companies would be interested in. These companies could be notified of
> the idea and also of the fact that their competitors are being offered
> the chance to buy the idea also. I could sell my idea to all companies
> interested, or I could allow them to bid against each other, and I could
> sell my idea to the highest bidder, with the agreement that I will not
> disclose the idea to others for a certain period of time. I see many
> different possibilities for making money off ideas.

Ah, you want to create a patent auction house. Thats not a bad idea, maybe a website would do the trick, since IP is just information. I've got auction website development experience, anyone else want to get involved? Investors? ;)

> The full details of such a system have yet to be worked out by me, but I
> anticipate the development of companies which market ideas for creative
> people. Anyone could contribute ideas, and as the company sold the
> ideas, they would make money for themselves and their clients. It seems
> like this would be an effective way to promote creativity among humans.
> I would appreciate any comments you have on this idea.
> the creative potential of humans is greatly undervalued

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ One of the things which I wholeheartedly agree with you on.