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Automating Invention is Robert Plotkin's blog on the impact of computer-automated inventing on the future of invention and patent law.

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November 30, 2008

Patents vs. Prizes

The patent system, when it works properly, can provide incentives to inventors to create new inventions and make them available to the public.  Patents, however, are not the only tool we have for encouraging innovation.  Prizes, as Anya Kamenetz reports in Fast Company, are another such tool. Innovation prizes "gave the world guns and butter--specifically, the AK-47 and margarine.  They sent Charles Lindbergh's The Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris and Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne almost 70 miles above the earth--twice."

As the article rightly points out, prizes can be a great way to spur innovations in certain circumstances, such as when the the prize-granter can clearly define the problem to be solved and the criteria that a winning solution must meet.  Patents, and markets in general, tend to do a better job at spurring innovation when the problem to be solved, or the kind of invention that will solve it, are not yet known.

Posted by Robert at November 30, 2008 1:36 PM
category: Intellectual Property Law | Technology Industry

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