Archive for January, 2010

Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood

January 27th, 2010

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood… Though Fred Rogers had a huge impact on the world I wanted to share a paraphrased story from the life of Everett Rogers (Mr. Rogers’ lesser known 2nd cousin-not really). There once was a young grad student whose’ first job out of school was working for the US Department of Agriculture and charged with the task of getting farmers to use some new techniques and hybrid corn seed that provide them with a better and more resilient crop yield. He was excited for such an opportunity. He got to deliver good news surely he would be thought of as a hero after all he had the answer to all their problems. So he started his trek across the Midwest but found no one would even talk to him.
He finally found someone to listen. He was different and a little more open minded. He was a college graduate and had decided to buy a farm and try his hand at farming. He listened and worked with student and lo and behold success. As promised this farmer had a banner year and far surpassed his peers.
The grad student felt he turned the corner and now the other farmers would come flocking to learn how he did it. He had proved that it had worked. So he set out to offer his services to those who had turned him down previously. He met the same rejection and then shared the data that showed these methods had produced great success. Skeptical they would ask who and when he revealed the pioneer’s name most of the guys chuckled and said “You mean the guy with the Cadillac?” As they finished having a good laugh they closed the door leaving the grad student dumbfounded.
Even though he had hard, glaring evidence of a better way it was quickly brushed aside because the source wasn’t seen as credible in the farmers’ social circles. Mr. Rogers went on to craft his Diffusions of Innovation’s Theory that gets used in marketing classes and business tools around the world.
Every time you launch a new product or service you need to be aware that what you are really doing is asking people change the way they interact and view the world. Doing so requires multiple methods of influence so that there is both a personal benefit and a social acceptance for those that use the product or service.

Mutually Ensured Destruction, Patents, and the Little Guy

January 14th, 2010

Patent Nuclear War

Accumulating a war chest

In recent history, large companies seem to have adopted a strategy of mutually assured destruction with regard to patents. Many companies amass war chests of patents with the silent (and sometimes not so silent) implication that any patent suit will result in a countersuit of equal fervor.

Just  in the year 2010, IBM claimed nearly 5,000 patents with Samsung and Microsoft close behind. And with some minor exceptions, this strategy of threatened retribution seems to have worked to keep large companies from suing other large companies over patent claims.

Changing winds?

Todays news that Kodak is suing Apple and Research In Motion (maker of the BlackBerry) over alleged patent infringement seems to fit in with a growing trend of large companies resorting to patent claims as a competitive strategy. And in some cases, these patent strategies are having considerable impact. i4i recently won a lawsuit against Microsoft which threatens to make the software maker stop selling its flagship Word product.

What this means for the little guy

Small companies are also at risk from the current patent situation. This week, Union Square Ventures published a very compelling story describing how 1/3 of their portfolio was “under attack by patent trolls”. I’m certain that very few would argue with the fact that our patent system is broken in its current state and needs to be drastically reworked.

Unlike some, I see  hope in the latest patent litigation trends. Up until now, big companies have been able to tolerate the patent system as a necessary evil. As this strategy breaks down and large companies incur substantial financial impact, they will be forced to move. There will finally be sufficient money flowing to organize, lobby, and create public awareness that will eventually bring patent reform – reform that is entrepreneurs desperately need.

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