Have We Run Out of Invention Ideas?

Watson IP Group

Watson IP Group

Are there still new ideas for inventions that need to be made today?

Yes, there is Room for Your Patent Invention

Most everything that we use on a daily basis was at some point invented, and in many instances, the inventions were protected by patents. Our phones are protected by thousands of patents, our cars are protected by thousands of patents, as are many of the objects that we interact with every day.

Often, we hear that we have run out of ideas and that everything is just a rehash of what has already been developed. While that sounds reasonable when first uttered, consider how safe you would feel today in a 1968 Volkswagen Beetle as compared to a 2018 Volkswagen Beetle, or a 1959 Chevy Impala versus a 2009 Chevy Impala. Or, consider the television that you were watching 20 years ago compared to today’s televisions. Or, consider the differences between your flip phone of 2007 versus your iOS or Android based phone today. What about battery capacity in 2003 versus 2020? Not too long ago DSL was considered light speed as compared to a 56k modem, yet today we are hundreds of times faster. These differences are the result of thousands of incremental improvements over time. When looking back, the amount of innovation is staggering. In fact, the rate of change and increase in innovation is only growing.

We are NOT running out of ideas, and the pace of new filings is only increasing. For example, there were about 24 years between the issuance of Pat. No. 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 (1911 to 1935). In other words, it took almost two and a half decades to amass sufficient inventions to achieve an additional million patents.

Contrast that with the number of years that it took to incrementally add one million patents between Pat. No. 4,000,000 and 5,000,000 (1976-1999). The time it took went from two and a half decades to one and a half decades.

Now, move to today. There were only three years – one third of a decade – between the issuance of Pat. No. 9,000,000 and 10,000,000 (2015-2018). What took 24 years at early in 100 years ago, took only 3 years one hundred years later. That represents an eight fold increase in patent activity. And this is just in the United States, other places around the world also experienced a vast increase in patents, with China experiencing the greatest increase.

This ramping up of the speed at which patents are granted is very interesting. The granting of the first 10 million US patents took about 228 years. At the current rate, the granting of the second 10 million US patents could take less than 30 years. And, if the rate of increase continues, that time period can further be shortened substantially.

And, many of these patents are in industries that did not exist or were fledgling industries only a few decades ago, namely, Internet of Things devices, quantum computing, battery technology, drone technology, 5G technology. Additionally, with the ability to go from drawing to prototype to production (i.e., 3d printing technology) to sale over the internet with pre set logistics (via UPS or Amazon, for example) many consumer devices that are for a particular purpose and fit a narrow need spring up constantly. The barriers to entry have been vastly reduced.

The pace of technology is only increasing.

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