An inventor’s biological clock

The average inventor[1] is more likely to be:

  1. Older – there is a higher incidence of inventors aged in their 40s to 50s who file patents; and
  2. Self determining – an inventor is less likely to be associated with a large firm or a university.

Inventors do not have disproportionally more genius genes, but are highly motivated and therefore are driven to make a difference. Studies of identical twins separated at birth indicates that creative thinking is:

  1. less genetically based (estimated to be a one third contribution);
  2. more learning based (estimated to be a two-thirds contribution) leading to creating confidence in the capacity to create.[2]

What does the above profile represent? Why are inventors generally older? Is there a biological clock for inventing?

There are many exceptions to the above profile; however, perhaps we should consider Maslow’s pyramid of hierarchy of needs.  This pyramid has basic needs at its base, such as food and shelter, and self-actualisation at the peak.

Self-actualisation was coined by Abraham Maslow, a professor of psychology, who believed that focus should be on the positive qualities in people.[3] Maslow’s postulate was that, to be a fully formed self, an individual has to move from the potential of “what you can be” to realise what “you must be”.  That is, you must fulfil your full potential. Perhaps patent filing as a form of self-actualisation, since it occurs at a later stage of one’s working life?

Inventors need networks

To achieve self-actualisation as inventors, people need networks to form the basis of learning.

You and your hypothetical identical twin have the same ability and background. However, the outcome is different if:

  1. you stay in the shed tinkering, whilst
  2. your identical twin communicates with many people from diverse backgrounds.

In the above scenario, your identical twin will have a better output.[4] The difference within these results are realised within a week. Thus, communication is critical to develop inventions.

What role can a patent have?

A patent helps an individual publish an identity as an inventor which provides the means to engage with a like community. The inventor then may learn from members of a like-focused community. This provides a basis for reflection for the inventor and growth for the inventive concept.

Patents would therefore have a much greater contribution to both the individual and the community if patents were linked with communication systems.  Should patent databases have communication links embedded? Do patent databases have the potential to be the next Facebook?

Self-actualisation takes place in less than 1% of the adult population.[5] Likewise, inventors are also a rare species.  Could this be because the tools to aid invention remain hidden from a large part of the population?

Patents, when taking the form of a communication means for invention, must become less impenetrable and more accessible. Patents often remain hidden from like minded inventors because they speak in a language that is more typical of patent attorneys than inventors.[6]

Peer-to-Patent – the new communication means?

The Peer-to-Patent[7] systems implemented over the last two years were one step forward; however, their benefits are not yet realised.  Further, the US implementation of the peer to patent project was concluded after two years due to the economic downturn.[8] Perhaps this can now give rise to a wiki-patent site to focus more strongly on communication of patent technology, rather than uncovering prior art for the benefit of the patent examination process.[9] Like this blog if you think this idea has teeth – maybe we could start one?

Patent offices, such as IP Australia, could target individuals who are motivated to invent. Capturing what drives individuals at specific stages of their life could aid to the nation’s GDP and help promote an inventive culture.

Inventors are nurtured and the tools for nurturing should be developed to capture invention. Maybe Patent Offices around the world – for example, IP Australia – could incorporate inventor communication tools and open their protocols to allow a web 2.0 site to flourish.


[9] We note that there are currently many wikipatent sites in progress; however, none yet seem to have formed a central communication hub with critical mass of entries.

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