Inventions Ahead of Their Time

Posted by Jeff Lindsay on November 30, 2009

One of my painful experiences in the pursuit of patents has been surprisingly close prior art. Even after serious and careful searching related to an invention that seems entirely new, one may later find that someone else pursued a very similar idea many years ago. Like the Good Book says, there is no truly novel thing under the sun, though there may be many nonobvious improvements thereof.

A great example of this is the iPod, a terrific innovation that may have been anticipated to some degree in 1979. “Suspiciously Prescient Man Files Patent for iPod-Like Device in 1979” is Dan Nosowitz’s recent post at Gizmodo pointing out how an old, expired patent hinted at several aspects of the iPod. Of course, music players and MP3s were already around when the iPod came out, but the 1979 data is rather surprising. That patent may have had some great concepts, but like many inventive concepts, it may have been too early to be practical and successful. Timing is so important for success in innovation: is the market ready, is the supply chain available, is there an ecosystem that can be tapped, can the concept stick and resonate with other innovations, and can it be offered economically?

Consideration of the market roadmap for a prospective innovation can be critical for success. Many times suceess requires adjusting the business model to find the resonances that can add energy to the offering and to find ways to present the innovation in a disruptive manner rather than going head-on against established incumbents. Innovation is often more about the business model and marketing plan than it is about the technology itself. The iTunes model was part of what made the iPod a winner. 1979 was the wrong digital era for that invention.

Do you have an invention that is way ahead of its time? Is you company pursuing a product concept too far ahead of its time? Why not considering tapping the expertise of the team at Innovationedge to look for ways to realize the potential of your innovation vision in the near future, rather than simply laying a foundation for future generations to benefit from your work (royalty free). We enjoy working with innovators to find the right way to position an invention in order to find disruptive innovation opportunities, or to find the right business model and partners to increase the odds of success, or to create the marketing roadmap that can identify the path forward for bringing the concept successfully to the market. It’s not easy, and sometimes the problems really can’t be readily circumvented, but when there is a fit with our skills and interests, we really enjoy working with others to help them find innovation success.

Filed Under: Innovators

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