Friday, February 19, 2010

Economic Development in Brasilia: Many Lessons for Government Officials

Below are two recent Pixetell presentations where I share some recent learnings about the exciting economic experiment that has been underway in the small Federal District of Brasilia, a region with 2.6 million people but a GDP of $61 billion, larger than that of many nations. The efforts since 2006 of the government in Brasilia have created an environment where respect for the rule of law and respect for the creative powers of the private sector have unleashed economic growth and resulted in their lowest unemployment rate in history. Next steps will be strengthening financial resources for small business and further strengthening Brazilian IP.

Special thanks to Adriano Amaral, Secretary of State for the State Department of Economic Development in Brasília for meeting with me and sharing his insights and experiences. Like many of the leaders in Brasília, Adriano is not a career politician, but an experienced business leader who has led successful startups, stepped in to bring struggling businesses to life, advised large and small companies, and taught some of the best MBA students in the world. Special thanks also to Hugo Teophilo, former Undersecretary of Economic Development for Economic Studies and Strategy, Government of Brasilia. Hugo is currently a 2nd-year MBA student at the National University of Singapore. I met Hugo in Singapore recently, and he sparked my interest in Brazil and introduced me to Adriano.

The success of the Federal District of Brasília demands further attention, and will be covered in our next book. Our first book with John Wiley & Sons, Conquering Innovation Fatigue, teaches several lessons that resonate with the experiment in Brasilia, as I observe in these presentations. We continue to look for further experts to interview as we explore the many stories and lessons from this region and from Brazil in general. Let us know if you have experiences and expertise to share! Email me at jlindsay at And if you'll be there in early June, let me know - we might run into each other!

The Pixetell below, created for, is set to 480 x 320 pixels). To see the full-sized presentation in higher resolution, click on the full-screen icon in the lower right-hand corner, or to view this in a new window, use this Pixetell link. Pixetell, by the way, is an incredibly easy and extremely innovative tool for sharing information from your computer.

Here is a 14-minute Pixetell presentation prepared for, further describing some of the good news coming from Brasilia, focusing on efforts to create an ecosystem for success. Again, I suggest clicking on the full-screen icon for better viewing.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Finding and Other References Cited in US Patents

For those new to patent searching, here's a quick example of how to see what issued US patents are citing publications, or other references. Yes, the PTO is increasingly turning to in its prior art searching.

A quick answer is that you can search for the string "" in the search field for "Other references" in some search tools such as or the search engine, though some search engines make it more difficult.

The video below is 480 pixels wide to fit on this blog. To see the full-screen presentation at higher resolution, click on the full-screen button in the lower right corner of the video. To see it in a new browser window, click here. It's about 9 minutes long since I show you some results and pontificate a bit on defensive publications and as a resource.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Patentable Subject Matter in Europe

IPKat has a good review on patentable subject metter in Europe. here's a brief excerpt:
In Europe, all inventions that are new and not obvious are patentable [Article 52(1) EPC], but this is subject to various exceptions and exclusions. The exceptions [Article 53 EPC] are:

  • inventions the commercial exploitation of which would be contrary to "ordre public" or morality;

  • plant or animal varieties or essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals; and

  • methods for treatment of the human or animal body by surgery or therapy and diagnostic methods practised on the human or animal body.

The exclusions, being things that are not considered to be inventions [Article 52(2) EPC] are:

1. discoveries;
2. scientific theories;
3. mathematical methods;
4. aesthetic creations;
5. programs for computers;
6. presentations of information; and
7. schemes, rules and methods for performing mental acts, playing games or doing business.

These are, however, only excluded from patentability to the extent that a patent application (i.e. the claimed invention) relates to one or more of these things as such.

As an aside, Lord Hoffmann (who was, until recently, the most senior IP judge in the UK) has come up with two reasons that could be used to at least explain these exclusions. Exclusions 1-6 above fall within what he considers to be the 'practical application principle', that these things cannot be the subject of a patent in themselves, but this would not necessarily stop practical applications being patentable (for example, the practical application of the discovery of the electrical nature of lightning to the invention of a lightning rod). The last exclusion falls within the 'human behaviour principle', since mental acts, playing games and doing business are all aspects of human behaviour that should not (presumably for practical as well as ethical reasons) be patented, even though they may be new, useful and inventive. See here for more details.

With the Bilski case coming before the Supreme Court, the scope of patentable subject matter in the U.S. may also soon become smaller.

Personally, I am puzzled why so many people reject software and business methods as patentable, when the world of innovation and discovery is increasingly moving away from compounds and gadgets per se and increasingly being found in how information is handled. Software and business methods are the future and represent some of the most exciting opportunities for valuable innovation, but the world's patent systems tend to emphasize more tangible innovation. The technical aspects of innovation in these realms are just as meaningful, clever, and impact tangible reality just as much or more than any clever new potato peeler.