Sunday, June 10, 2007

Stifling the Innovators


That was Archie Bunker's favorite verb. "Stifle Edith, stifle." We don't want to hear your squeaky voice talking truth to power. It's embarrassing. Not to you. To us. We the armchair powerful get oxymorononically upset when upstarts such as yourself start upsetting the status quo. If the good Lord had meant for people like you to be heard, He would have given people like us empathy --whatever that means. But He didn't. And frankly Edith, we don't give a care. So stifle.

Words like "stifle" and "innovation" are all the rage in the right wing anti-inventor talk circles now a days.

Here is what Patent Lier, Tim B. Lee[ry] writes in the New York Times Op-ed section recently (6/9/2007):

Only patent lawyers benefit from this kind of arms race. And Microsoft’s own history contradicts Mr. Smith’s claim that patents are essential for technological breakthroughs: Microsoft produced lots of innovative software before it received its first software patent in 1988. As more and more lawsuits rock the industry, we should ask if software patents are stifling innovation. Bill Gates certainly thought so in 1991, even if he won’t admit it today.
Timothy B. Lee is an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute.

TB Lee is not alone. Here is the US Supreme Court extolling the "stifle" word in KSR v. Teleflex:

" We build and create by bringing to the tangible and palpable reality around us new works based on instinct, simple logic, ordinary inferences, extraordinary ideas, and sometimes even genius. These advances, once part of our shared knowledge, define a new threshold from which innovation starts once more. And as progress beginning from [ever] higher levels of achievement is expected in the normal course, the results of ordinary innovation are not the subject of exclusive rights under the patent laws. Were it otherwise patents might stifle, rather than promote, the progress of useful arts."
[emphasis added]

In light of recent attempts by the same Archie Bunker Supreme Court to stifle Edith and her feminist friends from suing for equal pay, one must ask whether the "true" intent of the Court is to stifle innovators rather than to worry about stifling "true innovation". Indeed, the concept of "true innovation" inherently invokes the counter example of "false innovation". What is "false innovation"? It is when a group of powerful business people who never themselves invented anything commendable, seek to substitute their names in as the parents of a brain storm baby that was birthed in a barnyard by a lonely independent inventor. Success has many parents. Logic tells us that most such parents are innovators of falsehood.

One must pause and pay tribute to whichever think tanking organization spawned the issue framing phrase regarding the "stifling of innovation". Was the Edith-putdown epitaph first innovated here or here or here?


Anonymous said...

P.S. from another New York Times writer, Phyllis Korkki: Attention Innovators, Curb Your Enthusiasm

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