Usefulness and Patents- a curious relationship
Usefulness and patents have a curious relationship. There are many misconceptions surrounding patenting and usefulness. Not all useful ‘innovations’ are patented ( or patentable, even if the innovator so wants ). Neither is a patent a certain indication of high usefulness – or commercial viability – of an innovation.
Many innovators deliberately choose to keep their inventions ‘off-patent’ because of their belief that patenting may not allow wide spread adaption of their innovations, and they are prepared to let go of possible commercial benefits that patents may grant them . Since the path of patenting is anyways not taken by such an innovator, whether he/she would have ultimately got a patent on his/her innovation and managed to commercially exploit it remains a conjecture. But the fact is that many quite well known and useful inventions are unpatented. So, one can very well say that usefulness and patents are unconnected, in such cases !
For instance, Tim Bernes Lee is widely credited for ‘invention’ of world-wide web as we know it today, since he developed the first WYSIWYG ( what you see is what you get ) browser which really exploded usage and adaption of Internet and brought it into mainstream life of people. Yet, deliberately, he did not proceed to patent his innovation but instead founded the W3C ( World Wide Web Consortium ) which decided that its standards should be based on royalty-free technology so that they easily could be adopted by anyone . Of course since he did not proceed to patent, whether he would have actually got a patent on his innovation to begin with is an unknown parameter.
I found a video which quite nicely brings this forth. Host of ‘innovations’ therein , many quite useful. Do they carry a patent ? Could they have been patented if their inventors so desired ? I don’t know, but it is reasonable to assume that quite a few of them may not have been able to clear the tests of patentabilty, if a patent application had been filed.
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