Thursday, June 21, 2007

Automated Dispensing of Medications: A Potentially Disruptive Innovation

Parata Systems now offers automated kiosks that can dispense a prescription even after hours when the pharmacy is closed. Nice example of a potentially disruptive innovation that makes life easier for patients.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The KSR Decision: Rich Resource

For those of you interested in exploring the momentous KSR v. Teleflex decision of the US Supreme Court, an extremely valuable resource is the KSR Litigation Papers page prepared by Fried Frank, the firm that represented KSR. The decision was a big victory for KSR, but was it a victory for patent law? By clarifying and lowering the standards for obviousness rejections, there is a risk that patents will be harder to obtain and enforce, and that property rights will suffer.

Supporters of the KSR decision claim that too much obvious trash was being allowed and cluttering the system. My take is that the problem with poor quality patents was not due to poor standards in the area of obviousness, but to poor execution by the US Patent and Trademark Office, which in turn is due to Congressional malfeasance in looting the funds that the PTO receives as an inherent tax on innovation. When patent examiners only 16-20 hours total per case, there isn't time for thorough searches. If Congress would keep their hands of the PTO budget, we'd be a lot better off.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Think Carefully About Repairs

A hot area in IP law is the issue of repair versus reconstruction of medical devices. Repairing a patented object is fine, but if you "reconstruct" it, you may be infringing the patent. See "Reusing Patented Medical Devices" by Don V. Kelly over at

When you are developing a device for commercialization and preparing your patent, it may be wise to carefully consider the issue of repair vs. reconstruction, and to take pains to address business models around repair and aftermarket service. Neglect of those areas can lead to lost profits later on. The business model you pursue may include providing a license for users that stipulates conditions for repairs and replacement of parts. And the patent strategy may wish to consider patenting key parts of the device that are most likely to be replaced.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Contest for Disruptive Innovations in Health Care

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is sponsoring a contest for Disruptive Innovations in Health Care: "an open source competition to identify ways in which the health and health care marketplace can offer services, tools and choices that consumers want -- but are currently out of reach because of cost, complexity or because the right idea hasn't come along." Winners get $5,000 cash and a chance to receive further funding up to $5 million.

Contests and other incentives can be great ways to tap into the creative resources of many people in the quest for disruption. Will anything come of this effort? Perhaps. Meanwhile, corporations seeking to protect their future need to regularly examine their systems and incentives. Are there barriers to innovation within the company, or is there a system that welcomes and rewards valuable and potentially disruptive concepts? Talk to your creative people and perhaps you'll find more barriers than you imagined! This is part of the plight of "innovation fatigue" that I'll discuss more in the future.

Tip from a BYU Grad on Saving $ on Textbooks

For those of you heading to college later this year, here's a tip on saving money on your textbooks: shop around. Go to, Amazon, or other sources of used books online and find your textbooks there for MUCH LESS than you'll pay at the university bookstore. My savvy daughter-in-law, a recent graduate of BYU, found that by shopping around, she could buy many textbooks for less than than the bookstore buy-back price and actually make a little money on textbooks.

I don't want to pick on any particular bookstores, but there are some that appear to have tried to reduce online competition for books by delaying publication of the list of required books until about one week before classes start. (Other excuses are offered, of course, such as the indecisiveness of professors who are always changing their minds, forcing bookstores to delay publication until the last minute - apparently professors were a lot more decisive before became available.) Never fear! It's usually no problem to receive your textbook a few days after class begins. Many professors are understanding about this, and some of the best ones will specifically choose the penultimate edition so you will be more likely to find it in used form.

Textbook prices are an atrocity (except for any that I may author in the future). I hope you'll be able to avoid some of the gouging through used books.

I kept most of my engineering and math related textbooks. They collect as much dust now as they did the month after I graduated. Only a few were ever of any value, and that was partly because I taught some related courses. Ask professors and others with experience which ones are likely to be classics and gems to keep, and sell back the rest to your bookstore, hopefully for more than your paid online.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Do Less, Win More: True for More than Software

One of America's most interesting companies, 37Signals, has a terrific online book that explains their philosophy and also teaches software developers how to beat the competition. Get Real can be purchased for convenience, but the whole book can be read online. Generous!

The wisdom in Get Real is closely tied to the theories of disruptive innovation from Clayton Christensen and others. Consider this advice from Chapter 2:
Underdo your competition

Conventional wisdom says that to beat your competitors you need to one-up them. If they have four features, you need five (or 15, or 25). If they're spending x, you need to spend xx. If they have 20, you need 30.

This sort of one-upping Cold War mentality is a dead-end. It's an expensive, defensive, and paranoid way of building products. Defensive, paranoid companies can't think ahead, they can only think behind. They don't lead, they follow.

If you want to build a company that follows, you might as well put down this book now.

So what to do then? The answer is less. Do less than your competitors to beat them. Solve the simple problems and leave the hairy, difficult, nasty problems to everyone else. Instead of oneupping, try one-downing. Instead of outdoing, try underdoing.

We'll cover the concept of less throughout this book, but for starters, less means:

* Less features
* Less options/preferences
* Less people and corporate structure
* Less meetings and abstractions
* Less promises
Yes! This makes so much sense to me. I'm sick of bloated software that continually adds more features, more bugs, more slowness and inconvenience, while still not getting even the simplest things right. But the largest corporations seem committed to fueling this trend - because the people who make the corporate decisions do it based on what brings them job security, not what an individual user really needs. Buying the biggest, most-feature laden package that "everyone else" is using seems like a safe move, even though the actual users may scream about all the time they lose trying to navigate a user-hostile interface.

The essence of disruptive innovation theory is focusing on the real job that users are trying to get done, and then finding a better, more convenience, or less costly way to do that job. The software of the future will be focused on getting that job done and making life easier for the users, not more lucrative for the trainers who now can conduct week-long seminars on MegaPackage Basics and still leave users unskilled and in need of further training.

And the message is about more than software. Electronics, tools, cars, utilities - sometimes we need to not engage in hopeless feature wars, and rather just focus on what consumers are really trying to do. Simplify. Do less. But offer more in untouched areas: simplicity, ease, convenience. Master than, and you will dominate your niche.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Welcome to Sharp IP!

My name is Jeff Lindsay. I'm a recovering professor, a researcher, inventor, IP strategist, and new product enthusiast. I'm starting this blog to help others dealing with the challenges of protecting their inventions and dealing with disruptive innovation. This blog will be especially aimed at the following groups:
  • New inventors looking to not just protect their invention, but help it flourish in the market place.

  • Inventors and patent professionals in Corporate America looking for ways to overcome corporate barriers to innovation and out-of-the-box strategy for growth.

  • People wishing to take advantage of the principles of disruptive innovation, especially as applied to intellectual asset strategy.
I have had some great experiences in some of these areas, though I still have plenty to learn. But as we share ideas back and forth, perhaps we can help each other to reach our goals. There is a universe of potential out there, and sound strategy and sharp IP might just help.