Friday, 10 May 2013

Kenya: a Patent Lawyer Observes... Lofty Goals


A curious trend has surfaced in the last few weeks: inventors coming to CIPIT with some extraordinarily grandiose goals. 
[Sadak in Search of the Waters of Oblivion
oil on canvas by John Martin, 1812]

A few examples are worth sharing (sorry, can’t give specific details so as to preserve confidence). One visitor had an innovation that was guaranteed to completely eliminate corruption from a branch of government.  The next visitor had an innovation that was guaranteed to completely eliminate ethnic tensions and lead to national cohesion. Previously, I had met a visitor with an invention that would easily generate trillions (with a “t”) of shillings every year.

These are worthy goals, to be sure.

As a patent lawyer, it is not so much my job to evaluate the business viability (or social viability or management viability) of an invention as it is to evaluate the patentability of the invention.  In any case, most business ideas sink or swim based on the characteristics of the entrepreneur rather than the merit of the idea. A good businessperson can find success with almost any idea, and a bad businessperson can cause even the most innovative and useful of ideas to fail.

I find these grandiose goals and guarantees to be unnecessary and even a bit distracting. Usually I’m able to ignore them and focus on the invention, but I am often left wondering whether the inventor will be completely disappointed if their ultimate level of success is less spectacular than they expect. 

Inventors: I love to see enthusiasm and dedication, but leave the lofty guarantees for pitches to potential funders or customers. They are not so helpful to your patent lawyer. 


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