On stealing my ideas

So, as part of this Coursera design course, I’m learning a lot about how people value their own ideas. One of the discussions among the students is about “how to avoid people stealing your ideas”. Firstly, I should point out that each discreet chunk of your work is reviewed by five of your peers and you review the work of five random peers, meaning you don’t actually see the whole of someone’s project, just random bits of random projects. And with over 30,000 people taking the course,  the risk of someone nicking your idea, if you’re really worried about it, is limited. But some of the discussions are entertaining. Including a few people who are “only going to design something a bit rubbish so they don’t give away their really good ideas”. This all seems to overlook the fact that … Continue reading »

On 3D printing, and a world unready

With the recent release of the Makerbot Replicator 2, 3D printing tipped into the real world. It moved from a conceptual idea that geeks and tinkerers would try and explain to their doubtful loved ones into something you can have delivered to your door in a matter of working days. It changes everything, and I think the world will be caught off guard. Even now, the ~$2,000 price tag isn’t crazy. It’s more than I would pay, but plenty can afford it. And this time next year the price will halve, the resolution will double and it will print slightly bigger things. Same again the following year. In four or five years’ time, almost anyone who wants one will be able to justify the cost of a 3D printer to themselves. I always imagined playing with Lego with my son when he’s older, … Continue reading »

Why patents are anti-social

Where would the human race be if the first person to do anything was the only person allowed to do that thing. “Hey guys. Check this out. I’ve just invented the alphabet. Would you like to use it? Sure. I only ask for the carcass of one wild boar a week as payment for using my idea.” If that sounds bad, imagine how much worse it would be if it wasn’t the first person to do something that owned the rights, but it was instead the first person rich enough to employ a patent lawyer that took exclusive ownership of the idea for the next ~20 years. We now live in a world where companies buy-up other companies, not because the they want to sell their products, employ their staff or service their customers, but simply to own their patents. Instead … Continue reading »