China has recently surpassed the United States in patent production, and not by a little. They now outrun us annually at about a 5 to 1 ratio. Let the reader recall that patents represent brand new technologies and, potentially, offer a great source of revenue in terms of ramped up productivity. These facts have often not figured into the bottom line of the otherwise quite profitable corners of the markets. On my view of things — recall my first axiom that innovation drives free market capitalism — this omission remains a very expensive oversight as an “opportunity cost” (the cost of lost opportunities).
So I have this constructive (did I mention highly profitable?) suggestion to offer. The Alexandrians of old almost specialized in experimentation and innovation because of the wide range of studies in which they engaged, because of a healthy subsidy from the Ptolemies, and because of the high degree of the freedom of thought governing the environment in which they lived and moved and had their being. I which to recommend that we do what I believe they would have — create a new discipline that dwells experimentally on the many new technologies (patents) that emerge now so quickly that we can hardly keep up.
Enter the world of “patent studies.” Here, we hire a research team to study systematically all the latest patents that seem most relevant and important to the development of new innovations. Recombination, trying several different new features together in a new combination — now this way, now that — should guide our efforts. This calls for labeling the most important features of each new patent studied, and the kind of technology that each represents, along with a system of classifying each according to its salient features as a “typology” (particular KIND of new tech).
By comparing, contrasting and recombining the best and brightest features and new patents one with another, we can create even more successful, and even more “cutting edge” innovations — or if you will “meta-innovations” (new innovations that depend upon other new innovations). This new science (patent studies) would tend to yield a radical increase in revenue production — and overall productivity — across the entire spectrum of industries and sectors in the marketplace.
How do I know this? Simply put, it follows the tried-and-true axiom: Nothing succeeds like success. One cannot receive a patent without demonstrating in advance a very reasonable expectation of the likelihood of success or actual success already. The careful selection of these, placed in new (strategic and experimental) combinations could only serve to yield far more success. Here, success means increased profitability (because the bottom line IS the bottom line).
Given the unlimited resources of imagination that stand behind the recombining of multiple technologies (in novel ways) to turn out the profit, the net worth increase likely to result from this nascent discipline cannot be estimated with any reasonable certitude. This could easily be another trillion dollar winner for the global economy, especially since the synergy (mutually reinforcing support) that links one technology’s success to that of another over time is well-known. Consider how the advent of computers has increased the rate at which we develop (and speed along the growth of) still other new technologies. That is synergy at work. Although it is not easy to identify, it is easy enough to create. And it generates untold new capital.
The upshot? The bottom line is the bottom line. And nothing succeeds like success. These are two excellent reasons to begin working to create new value through patent studies. Innovation is not futile. It is Alexandrian, centrally “capitalistic,” and extremely profitable.