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Early-stage idea in development:
Social Web Collaboration
The Idea Adoption Agency / Marketplace

Seeking a sponsor...

What better way is there for profits from technology to be reinvested for the common good than to apply technology to enhance innovation as an open collaborative process?

  • The cost of establishing this community is small (perhaps a few million dollars for technology and publicity), the value to society could reach into the billions (or even trillions) of dollarsand it should eventually pay for itself.
  • This can be justified as a pro-bono effort one that could reflect very positively on industry sponsors and one that might pay real dividends once established.
 

Core opportunity*

Large numbers of new ideas remain undeveloped, with huge loss of value to society. 

Much of that value may be captured by a new service, which:

  1. Provides an open forum for disclosure of the large numbers of good ideas that are lost because their inventors do not have the motivation or resources to develop them. 
  2. Identifies the good ideas among those disclosures by using electronic collaboration systems that harness community intelligence.
  3. Profits from those good ideas by supporting their development, and by exploiting rules that permit US patents to be filed within one year after public disclosure. 
    [*UPDATE: Patent laws have changed, and this is no longer the case -- Teleshuttle is now pursuing the "More general opportunity" below.]
  4. Serves as an important complement (not replacement) for existing Intellectual Property (IP) development methods, harnessing the same kind of energies as open source software.

More general opportunity

This patent application also addresses advanced collaboration features that may have far wider applicability.  These include:

  • Rating, recognition, and knowledge discovery systems that identify, assess, categorize, and raise attention to good ideas that bubble up through peer review processes
  • Collaboration features that enable inventors and others to work together in social networks to enhance raw ideas, and to maintain an audit trail of such activity.
Many good ideas that, in aggregate, have huge potential value to society are lost.  This is particularly true for inventors -- and smaller companies -- who lack a strong R&D support structure and are unskilled at the challenges of commercializing ideas, in what is generally a highly inefficient market.  An electronic marketplace offering a variety of new support services can act as an “Idea Adoption Agency” to foster the development of ideas that would otherwise be orphaned.

This Idea Adoption Marketplace differs from current IP exchanges in that it provides for full disclosure to expose early-stage ideas that are not yet patented.  It is to serve as a broad and open collaborative community that would encourage participation by inventors and other creative domain contributors, unlike current marketplaces that focus narrowly on licensing business specialists who trade packaged, later-stage IP. 

It should be understood that this may not be suited to ideas that are strong, from sources with strong infrastructure support but it is uniquely suited to those ideas and idea sources that do need special support.  Healthy children in healthy homes do not need adoption  – it is the many potentially strong ideas that face undeserved neglect and abandonment that cry out for this adoption agency.

Key features that enable this (and that distinguish from existing IP exchanges and idea development systems) include

        Exploitation of the US “one-year rule” grace period to capture patent rights for good ideas that can be “adopted” by a sponsor and filed within that time, with support to aid in that process.  (Similar rules apply for patents in Australia, Canada, and Mexico.)

        Electronic marketplace and collaboration features to support idea development:

  • Rating, recognition, and knowledge discovery systems that identify, assess, categorize, and raise attention to good ideas that bubble up through peer review processes
  • Collaboration features that enable inventors and others to work together in social networks to enhance raw ideas, and to maintain an audit trail of such activity.
  • Development lifecycle and workflow support features that support key developmental stages and facilitate docketing to meet one-year constraints and other schedule objectives.
  • Marketplace features that bring buyers and sellers of ideas, and supporting players, together in a supportive environment

        Support for alternative rewards, including:

  • non-financial rewards in the form of recognition for promising/successful ideas, and participation in collaborative development, as well as publicity and mass media tie-ins that have significant value and can lead to financial rewards
  • financial rewards potentially resulting from contractual or voluntary obligations of participants who may exploit the disclosure, as a “shadow patent system"

Such a service could create an entirely new and vital infrastructure for nurturing and developing ideas, one that can exploit latent value in the current patent system and add powerful new ways to enhance and profit from good ideas.  Key new sources of value are:

  • voluntary network-based collaboration structures that draw on the same kinds of community power that fuel the open source software revolution
  • emerging technologies for community-driven knowledge management and creation, and the support of social networks.

This value creation process offers a variety of ways to generate revenue in the support of this marketplace community:

  • Transaction fees for license/assignment and support service transactions
  • Membership, posting, and viewing fees (either based on usage or simple membership fees)
  • Sponsorship by IP oriented companies and support services (as cash and in-kind services), and by governmental and charitable organizations
  • Advertising

In addition, the exploitation of this huge pool of ideas that would otherwise be lost or underdeveloped offers tremendous potential value to society -- and thus can generate tremendous goodwill supportive of the business (customers, funding/sponsors, labor, etc.).

Such a mechanism may offer only limited IP protection, and thus might not be desirable for ideas that can be well-addressed using existing methods -- but it is the large number of other ideas that this is aimed at.  It serves as an adoption agency for ideas that would otherwise be abandoned and lost.  This can also serve as a marketplace for distressed, fire sale IP.  As such it serves even large organizations, and provides the defensive functions of a disclosure service such as IP.com, while adding the potential for value capture as a bonus.

Patent protection for this Idea Adoption Agency/Marketplace is believed achievable for business methods relating to a number of key aspects of the business of providing the proposed service.  An extensive US patent application is pending, and discloses the proposed methods in detail. 

The immediate objective is to seek strategic and equity partners (as well as supportive advisors) to aid in early stage development of the concepts, a business plan, and continuing patent prosecution.  While the near-term ROI case for such a venture is difficult, its very high potential for social value might encourage support from non-traditional funding sources. 

NOTE:   All descriptions relating to patent portfolios above (and elsewhere in Teleshuttle publications) are meant only to provide a suggestion of some of the subject matter included.  They should not be taken as precise or complete characterizations, and other aspects of those portfolios may be of equal or greater importance. 


Background note – FAQ for Skeptics – Why not?

1.   IP marketplaces have generally failed to achieve critical mass, usage, and profits.   Why should  this be any different?

Existing marketplaces are aimed at licensing specialists who work on large, complex deals in private, under confidential disclosure agreements, as a high-contact relationship business.  The marketplaces do not foster open disclosure or dialog.  These users are often not inclined to use them, since the rewards rarely justify the effort.  

The Idea Adoption Agency/Marketplace is aimed at the creative inventors and idea developers who are oriented to the ideas, rather than the deals.  It supports an open creative dialog that will surface and nurture good ideas.  For these people (much as with open source software), the process of collaboration on creation and refinement of ideas is a reward in itself, users will add value to the listings by rating them for one another, the intangible rewards have high value, and the prospect of financial reward is often just a bonus.

2.  Why would inventors be open and cooperative enough for this collaboration to occur?  Isn’t it unwise to disclose invention ideas early, especially before filing for a patent?

Many inventors will pass on this…for those ideas that they think they can own and carry to fruition, and for which they can commit the necessary investment.  In such cases secrecy does have value. 

However many inventors know they cannot do that at all, and many who can do it for some ideas have other ideas that are more iffy, and not worth the cost and risk of proprietary development (to them or their companies).  For ideas that would be dropped, sharing and cooperation enables possible gain, and offers potential for recognition and many other rewards, even if it puts the patent rights at a bit more risk.  Most inventors are motivated as much by recognition and success for their ideas, as for the monetary reward, and they fear theft without recognition as much as dilution of their financial interest.  Any success for an idea that would be dropped is a windfall. 

This trade-off is already recognized in part by established R&D organizations that use invention disclosure services like IP.com.  They know that it may be desirable to publicly disclose patentable ideas that they elect not to develop, so that others are precluded from getting a patent on the same idea and using it against them.  The Idea Adoption Agency provides that disclosure function…with the added bonus of opening up the possibility that someone might offer to pay them for the right to get a patent.

Also, those who wish to reduce possible risks to their rights can invest a little time and money to file a provisional patent application that protects their US and foreign patent rights (and starts the clock on the 1-year grace period before a more expensive full patent application and any foreign filings are required).

3.  Making money off this seems dubious.  Critical mass may grow slowly, service fees may be limited, and transaction participation might be difficult and slow to bear fruit.

On the basis of direct financial returns to the marketplace operation, the payback time might indeed not be short, and the costs of operation and the marketing and publicity to achieve critical mass could be substantial.  (See #4.)  While it is believed that long-term operational profits could be very substantial, as even a very small cut of the very large value creation this service could facilitate, this is not presented as being a quick hit.

The real motivation for this is the medium and long-term benefits to society, and the indirect benefits that may derive from support of the marketplace.  This argues for a significant role for funding that is motivated by social benefit and public relations value, and by the long-term value that would redound to marketplace sponsors, who might include businesses, foundations, and government.  

4.  Critical mass would be essential, large, and difficult to get.

A large community is essential to making the process effective, but there is reason to count on considerable latent demand for a service that lets creative people make a contribution and be recognized for it, even if not financially.  The open source software community has demonstrated this powerfully. 

The trick is to tap into this latent community, drawing on the existing networks and tools of the Internet, using clever guerilla marketing and PR methods, and drawing on the viral attraction of the right offer to the right social/collaborative network.  

5.  Even if they wanted to, many inventors lack the skills to present and collaborate on their ideas.

True, but the marketplace would provide exposure in a context that is facilitated by collaborative ranking and discovery tools that would enable others to see the germs of good ideas, and to polish and nurture them for wider recognition.  Those others can benefit in both direct and indirect ways.

6.  This kind of collaboration could create nightmares in determining inventorship

That is a challenge, but the processes and audit trails of the marketplace system can aid in resolving such problems.  These could provide clear records of who contributed what, and suggested guidelines for collaborative roles and ownership, which could facilitate agreements on co-inventorship and/or separate filings on each individually identified contribution where desired.  As experience is gained, such approaches can gain acceptance as win-win propositions, and, however divvied up, the innovations will come out.

7.  “Patents are property” / “Innovation wants to be free” -- This runs afoul of both camps.

The Idea Adoption Agency/Marketplace is a win-win middle ground.  It fosters innovation, and fosters wide and fair participation in the property rights that relate to it.  By supporting the creativity and reward of  “the little guy,” and providing infrastructure that favors licensing on RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms, it can win over the “free as in free speech” crowd and all but the extremists of the “free as in free beer” crowd.   By serving as a complement to the traditional patent development and trading process, it can give corporate R&D and licensing people new tools that extend their options, and yet take nothing away from use of their current methods where those are more effective.

8.  The system can be gamed.  Players could let the 1-year window expire so ideas enter public domain.

The rating and discovery processes of an open marketplace system will make it increasingly unlikely that good ideas are not recognized widely enough to bring in other players before that happens.  Marketplace agreements and reputation systems could help make such gaming difficult and unattractive.

9.  What about prior marketplaces and idea development systems?

Those systems are oriented to very different objectives, user-bases, and methods, and lack key features for this use.

10.  If you are so concerned about social value, why seek a patent on this?

The intent is to seek some level of participation in the value created, not to gain monopoly power.  (Even an altruistic inventor needs to eat.)  Investment will be needed before this marketplace becomes self-sustaining.  RAND licensing of any IP related to this will enlarge the pie and be consistent with the goals of The Idea Adoption Agency/Marketplace.  This might more accurately be seen as an organic network of interconnected Idea Adoption Agency/Marketplaces (each serving portions of communities that vary by domain, geography, working style, etc.).  Core IP might also prove valuable to provide leverage for essential standards that would allow such a network of communities to work as one global marketplace.

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