Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Inventor I Always Wanted to Meet

I recently met an inventor I always had wanted to meet. He's the inventor of a fascinating business method technology, protected by a significant "business method patent" that seems to be an important asset for a major corporation based on this technology. I've always wanted to meet this inventor because I admired the patent and the concepts in the technology, one that I've frequently mentioned in giving lectures on business method patents and the importance of looking for innovation in business models.

When I met the inventor of this concept, I didn't know it at first. You see, his name isn't on the patent. In fact, he's not part of the company. But his best friend in high school and former business partner is associated with the company. And the real inventor was somehow left behind. But there are piles of legal documents from court proceedings that lasted years hinting at a tragic story that befalls many inventors. My new friend did not prevail in the end, as many lone inventors litigating against large, well-funded companies have learned. But he did learn that he should have been more careful to protect his intellectual property so that outright theft or accidental re-inventing of his wheel by someone else doesn't deprive him of what he created. Intellectual property, NDAs, documentation of meetings and correspondence, etc., are vital to protect yourself in this dog-eat-dog world.

This devastating experience - watching your invention become the basis for someone else's vast wealth. But he has rebounded and gone on to invent other great things. His story will be told more fully one day.

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