Book by Lawrence Lessig
America loves innovation and the can-do spirit that made this country what it is—a world leader in self-government, industry and technology, and pop culture. Everything about America has at one point or another been an experiment and a leap of … see full wiki
Author Darin Gibby is a patent lawyer who has become increasingly frustrated with the cumbersome patent process here in the United States. He believes that the unreasonably long delays and outlandish costs associated with obtaining a U.S. patent these days has stifled innovation while virtually shutting out ordinary Americans from the process. In his new book "Why Has America Stopped Inventing?" Gibby presents the checkered history of patent law in these United States and argues vigorously that the number of patents issued has actually plunged in recent decades and that substantial reforms are needed to encourage inventors to focus on the serious problems that threaten us today such as finding solutions to America's long-standing energy problems. Creating downloadable apps for our smart phones is nice but in the long run does very little to help us address the nation's most urgent needs.
Eli Whitney was the first of America's great inventors. He solved the riddle of how to seperate seed from cotton fiber. His cotton gin would revolutionize the American economy. But patent law was very primitive in the early days of our nation and although he managed to receive a patent in 1794 he could do little to stop mass infringement on his invention. Cotton production boomed but sadly Eli Whitney would never reap the rewards of his invention. The experiences of Eli Whitney and other early inventors prompted Congress to make drastic changes to the Patent Office in 1836. Darin Gibby discusses the ramifications of these changes in a chapter entitled "A New Patent Office and Statute".
In the chapters that follow Gibby discusses the contributions of a handful of America's greatest inventors including Samuel Morse, Charles Goodyear, Cyrus McCormick, Isaac Singer and Samuel Colt. These men were all "tinkerers" who spent years trying to resolve a specific problem and would ultimately seek a patent for their inventions. You will discover how the new patent laws impacted each one of these men. Some made out better than others but by and large the patents they obtained did not protect them sufficiently from the copycats. In 1851 Charles Goodyear, who developed a process to vulcanize rubber , engaged the famous American statesman Daniel Webster to argue his case of patent infringement in court. Webster's closing argument seems to sum the case for all of these determined and gifted inventors quite succinctly. "Notwithstand all the difficulties he encountered he went on. If there was reproach, he bore it. If poverty, he suffered under it; but he went on, and these people followed him from step to step, from 1834 to 1839, or until a later period, when his invention was completed, and they opened their eyes with astonishment. They then saw what they had been treating with ridicule, was sublime; that what they had made the subject of reproach, was the exercise of great inventive genius; that what they had laughed at was the perseverance of a man of talent with great perceptive faculties, with indominitable perseverance and intellect and had brought out a wonder as much to their astonishment, as if another sun had risen in the hemisphere above."
In the final chapters of "Why Has America Stopped Inventing?" Darin Gibby offers up some concrete suggestions to encourage inventing in America once again. He favors policies that would encourage what he considers to be the most important class of inventors--the solo tinkerer or small technological start-up companies. Gibby believes that too many potential inventors have opted for the comfy life at the R&D departments of major corporations. Furthermore, Gibby believes that our patent laws need a major overhaul because right now the staggering cost of inventing things and obtaining proper patents favor huge corporations. And finally, in the earliest days of patent law, models were required. Gibby firmly believes that full-scale working models should become a prerequisite for obtaining a patent. Some would argue that this would be much too burdensome for the Patent Office but as Gibby points out videos could be submitted showing how the invention was built and precisely how it works. Gibby believes tha requiring models would eliminate lots of frivilous patent requests and help to speed up the entire process of obtaining a patent.
There is plenty of food for thought in "Why Has America Stopped Inventing". This is a topic I had read precious little about previously. I believe that Darin Gibby has made a very compelling case for the changes he is calling for. This would be a great choice for history buffs, tinkerers and general readers alike. Highly recommended!
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