14 January 2008

Patent reform… but the right reform, PLEASE!

I have been on record for a few years saying that the current patent process, and in fact the entire intellectual property protection system is skewed and completely unfair. Beyond the fairness, it is structured in such away that we (consumers, business people, etc.) do not maximize the economic value of innovation.

Flat out… meaningful innovation, the kind that changes the game, generates new jobs, adds significant value, and super charges the economy does not come from the corporate world. It comes from entrepreneurs. It comes from Steve and Steve, Bill and Dave, Larry and Sergey… in the garage… making history. These are the folks that need protection. These are the folks that did NOT have a million dollars in the bank and a building full of lawyers, yet this is what it takes to protect the little guy’s idea.

In this past Sunday's New York Times, John Markoff writes an oped piece that bypasses the crucial issues and focuses on all the wrong issues regarding coming legislative changes. This conversation, and the coming legislation, should not be about big business vs. small start-ups. It should not be democrats vs. republicans… it should be about cultivating a fertile economy for new ideas, prosperity, jobs and innovation encouragement.

The current state of intellectual property protection for entrepreneurs is so hostile that scores of smart people with good ideas (this blogger included) have put those ideas on the shelf and are taking respite in corporations, academia or semi retirement waiting for a time when their bright new idea won’t get cannibalized by the patent trolls or squashed by the corporate giants.

11 January 2008

The utility of iTunes

I have often written about measuring utility. In fact I still stand by my claim that the perfect product is one that provide utility while not requiring a change in behavior. Being able to measure the behavioral change hurdle and utility are vital towards increasing the rate of diffusion. Increasing the success of new product innovation will be a powerful tool towards reduction of waste and insuring a more robust economy.

The announcement of DRM free songs from becoming available on Amazon is an opportunity to measure the utility of the iTunes comprehensive music delivery system. Many industry experts point to iTunes as the key to the iPods domination of portable music players. While the system is proprietary, it is open to the extent that most users need. Amazon does on have the same sort of convenient, comprehensive delivery system, and this will be a great opportunity to measure it’s worth.

Similarly, any manufacturer that currently distributes through Wallmart and Target can gauge the utility of design. Utilizing online sale numbers we can extrapolate just how much it is worth to the average consumer to go across the street to Target and buy a much better looking toilet bowl brush (possibly even designed by Phillip Stark) for a measly dollar more. Sure, some folks don’t know they can do that, but that’s easy enough to isolate with a simple survey.

The road to accurately measuring utility and translating that measure to customer value is becoming pretty simple. Measuring the resistance to change (of behavior) is a more complex problem. Behaviorist… where are you?