IP conundrum #2
The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.
According to Eddy Junarsin in his paper Creativity and Competitiveness, creativity is often used to connote something spectacular, something possessed and performed only by extremely clever people and that yields significant and lucrative inspiration and outputs.
Yet, Junarsin argues, creativity may prevail even in simple activities. And it is creativity that lies at the heart of invention, that brings about the dream to yield a new standard and is today the decisive source of competitive advantage.
Finding solutions to problems is a creative process … one that many businesses have turned their minds to – whether it is an internal problem, or a problem that affects the community at large. The art of invention renders a solution “obvious” with the benefit of hindsight.
Your simple solution to a tricky problem might well be inventive. Therefore, protecting your solution might well protect your competitive advantage.
If only it were so simple.
Inventors – both businesses and individuals – often state “We just want to know whether it’s worth getting patent protection”.
The answer to this conundrum, our friends, is about as meaningful as “42” being the “Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything” provided by Deep Thought, the supercomputer in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy after 7-1/2 million years of deliberation.
We don’t have a simple answer.
All we can say is that deciding to invest in intellectual property (IP) protection must be a commercial decision, taking into account:
- What commercial value does your solution have to your own business?
- What is the potential market for the solution?
- Does your invention solve a problem that the market would pay to solve, or does it simply offer a way to do something differently – at a cost but without much commercial benefit?
Depending on these kinds of considerations, protecting your IP may very well protect your competitive advantage.
But remember, you still need to be “competitive” … and if you don’t spend any effort (creative effort, time and other resources) getting to market, the advantage you gain will be nought.