Do Patents Motivate Inventors? – TED Talk by Dr. Kalyan C. Kankanala

Dear readers, it gives us immense pleasure to inform you that acclaimed author and IP expert Dr. Kalyan C. Kankanala has recently given India’s first ever TED talk on patents titled ‘What Motivates Inventors? Patents or Passion?’ on 27th February, 2016. The video for the same is now available on Youtube.

Dr. Kalyan’s talk was based on a research study conducted over a period of ten years, where more than a thousand inventors from different fields ranging from information technology to biotechnology, electronics and telecommunication to pharma and chemistry were interviewed. The fundamental question asked to these inventors, which was also predominantly the backbone of the talk , was ‘what motivates you to invent?’, is it fame and recognition, money, for the general good or do patents play a role? Besides being an enriching experience it also was an eye-opener of sorts, as most of the inventors revealed that the driving force behind the inventing process was their love of inventing and the innate desire to improve upon things. However the most surprising revelation was that 90% of the inventors did not even consider patents to be a motivating factor. The general belief is that patents encourage inventors by giving them recognition and commercial gains but the reality as the study reflects is much different.

Do Patents Motivate Inventors? - TED Talk by Dr. Kalyan C. Kankanala

Nevertheless, as Dr. Kalyan goes on to explain patents and the patent system does have a crucial role to play for inventors. Inventions maybe a labour of love for their inventors, but they do require a considerable amount of hard labour, research and development and money. For any invention to see the light of day or for it to reach the public, it has to be first developed then tested, productized and finally be converted into something commercially viable. This is precisely where patents assist inventors, by bringing in investors, who in turn invest in these creations. Patents award some amount of credibility to an invention and by granting exclusive rights, they not only allow investors to recoup their investment but also earn profits.

Does this therefore mean that holding numerous patents is the mark of true inventorship? Dr. Kalyan explains that as the standards of patentability in the patents system are very low, one cannot boast of being a true inventor simply by having several patents to his name. To corroborate his point he discusses diverse inventions ranging from the absurd and outrageous like an Apparatus for kicking one’s own butt to pointless ones like Beerbrella (an umbrella to keep one’s beer bottle cool), to more worthwhile and noble ones like a method of sensitizing people about appropriate disability support. He also shed some light on the fact that although patent law for, social, public, moral and ethical reasons excludes certain inventions from the scope of patentability, this does not take away the fact that their creators are inventors as well. For example if a doctor comes up with a method of treating patients faster and more effectively, one cannot deny his inventorship even though medical methods cannot be patented. Therefore holding a patent does not translate into being a true inventor.

In the concluding part of his talk he spoke about the importance of creating an inventor friendly environment which would inspire one to create, build or improve something. Every creative mind is different from the other and every inventor has his own creative process. Whether it is taking short powernaps like Edison and Tesla or having a special thinking spot like one’s bathroom. While some inventors are very orderly and organised, others do not care as much about conducting research in a structured manner. However, one thing is for sure that every inventor is driven by passion. Every inventor has a desire to create something. And to allow an inventor to do so, restraints of any kind, whether physical or psychological, should not be forced upon them.
Dr. Kalyan’s talk gave everyone an insight into an inventor’s mind. He posed questions which are not generally asked, nor adequately answered. He went against the grain and explored the motivation behind an invention. The talk was truly inspiring, thought-provoking and engrossing.

For the benefit of the readers the script of his talk has been made available on Sinapse blog – Click here to view the article on Sinapse

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