Darin Gibby on Why America has stopped inventing

May 13, 2012

Why has America stopped inventing? That’s the provocative title of a book by Darin Gibby. Gibby’s a patent lawyer and points out that Americans invent less than half of what we did a century ago. Half.  Why? Are we less creative then we were 100 years ago? Gibby says the problem lies in one place and one place only – The US Patent system.  He tells Anne Strainchamps the current system has got to go.



If Mr. Gibby were an inventor instead of a lawyer, he would know that inventors invent chiefly because that is what they do best. Invention will always take place at the maximum possible rate regardless of the state of the patent system. Patents exist for the convenience of lawyers and capitalists--not inventors.

Why is the segment titled "Darin Gibby on Why America has stopped inventing" coming up as a firefox document?

We had some issues with a server upgrade over the weekend.  You should now be able to listen to the segment in the usual way

Can someone explain why some sort of "use it or lose it" mechanism can't be inserted into the patent process?

The way I imagine it is that... like a company filing or a website domain filing... you have to keep it up to date to keep it.

I imagine some sort of annual or bi-annual form that patent holders must submit that includes details of current or planned implementation.

If a patent holder fails to file, or files the same "plan" for years on end, that patent is discharged, and the patent transforms to a public patent - something that anyone else can use.

This would make patent trolling a lot less attractive by creating real work that the patent troll has to do on each and every patent they hold.

It would stimulate entrepreneurship: entrepreneurs or venture capitalists can watch for abandoned patents that they can use to start new businesses, or use to improve existing businesses

It prevents the dangerous practice of burying technology to eliminate competition (as in the alledged burying by the auto industry of the vapor car, or battery technologies that they found threatening)

It would cut down the vast number of meaningless and pointless patents (I saw someone on Shark Tank who had a patent pending on casting plastic in a short wide tube shape, so they could place platic bags over the top to make a disposable bowl!!! - at least after this idea dies a death, the patent would not be sitting at the patent office forever getting in the way of manufacturing different plastic shapes!)

As patents lapse, the size of the US patent library would start to get more manageable, and contain meaningful and in use patents.

...and so on.

Could this work?

There's a furiously creative ferment among groups of mechanical, digital/electronic, optical and other more or less technical interest groups --who only like one thing better than coming up with ideas: sharing and putting them to use with the rest of their friends.

While many of us are philosophically opposed to the notion of "intellectual property", private inventors/innovators who do look into the patent process often get milked, or they mercifully find out the fact$ of life. Those who return unscathed to their interest groups probably become far more creative than had a years-long patent effort used up their lives, their savings and their self-respect.

Like self-publishing authors, perhaps the best way to "capitalize" on ideas is to come up with safe, marketable artifacts which you can make in your own shop, office or lab.

By what measure does Mr. Gibby substantiate his claims that Americans invent at half the rate of 100 years ago? In the last three month the USPTO has issued 70,951 patents as compared to the 9,090 patents issued from May 6, 1913 through Aug. 6, 1913. In the past twenty years, the USPTO has issued 3,274,411 patents as compared to the golden years of the 1850's and 60's when 91,478 patents were issued. Even if population is considered, the population is only ten times that of the 1850's and slightly more than three times that of 1913.

Given that, in order for something to be patentable, it has to be truly novel and not able to be deduced from someone versed in the art, inventions now days are considerably more complicated. Certainly they are not as likely to be conceived while eating one's lunch in the middle of a hayfield.