Thefield of technology is mainly driven by innovations that are achievedthrough new discoveries and the advancement of existing technologies.Individuals and organizations that come up with these innovations areprotected by the law from immediate exploitation of their innovationsby generic firms. This individuals and firms are issued with patent,which refers to a limited monopoly over a given innovation for aspecified period of time (Peter, 2014). A patent holder is given theright to use, make, and sell the protected innovation for a givenperiod of time. Thomas Edison is one of the scientists who held thelargest number of patents in the world. During his life, Edison wasissued with at least 8 patents, but two of them were moresignificant. The electric Vote Recorder, which Edison’s firstpatent was a motivation to his subsequent discoveries. This patentprotected his electric device that was intended to help legislatorsvote faster (Edison Innovation Foundation, 2014). Secondly, the U.S.patent that protected Edison’s innovation on magnetic iron oreseparation gave him an opportunity to revolutionize the mining andthe cement manufacturing industries (Edison Innovation Foundation,2014). Edison held other significant patents, but most of them wereissued as a result of slight advancement of some existing technology.
Althoughthe electric vote recorder was beautifully designed, it became adisaster because it was ahead of time. This means that the mainproblem was not with the machine, but legislators felt that it woulddisrupt their status quo (Beals, 1999). Legislators needed a slowervoting and tallying process because it could give them an opportunityto influence decisions of other legislators. Although Edison wasready to supply his machines to legislative bodies, the reluctance ofthe legislators to adopt the new technology reduced the demand forthe new innovation. This means that the market forces of supply anddemand are some of the most significant factors that innovatorsshould consider.
Edisonfaced some legal struggles with the patent for filament incandescentlight bulb because of the innovations that had been achieved prior toand after his discovery. For example, other scientists (such asHumphrey Davy) had demonstrated light bulb in 1802 (Merges, 2013). Afew years after Edison’s patent, Mann and Sawyer were issued with apatent for materials that are used in the bulb filaments. Edisonchallenged this patent in the Supreme Court on the grounds that itwas very broad. The patent protected the use of textile andcarbonized materials, but Edison claimed that the patent was toobroad to be accepted (Merges, 2013).
Thereare two major factors that make the publication of patent moredifficult than a journal paper. First, the publication of patent isfaced with stiff competition from other innovators compare to thepublication of the journal paper (Krystek, 2002). Secondly, thepublication of a patent is associated with a higher commercial valuethan the publication of a journal paper. For example, a patent givesits holder to use, make, and sell a given innovation for a givenperiod of time, which is a special monopoly that the holder canutilize for years without any competition. The financial benefitsassociated with a patent increase the difficult to patent innovation.
AlthoughEdison was not born in a poor family, his life history ischaracterized a series of challenges, especially during his earlylife in school. His teacher believed that his physical appearance(broad health) and behavior (short-tempered) were signs of attentiondeficit hyperactivity disorders. This was a challenge to the youngboy and her mother Nancy Edison had to withdraw him from school andhome-teach him. Based on her mother’s influence, Edison developedsome interest in literature, which later changed to sciences at theage of 12 (Beals, 1999). He was employed by a telegraph company atthe age of 16 years. His family experienced serious financialconstraints, which prompted him to invent things that could find aplace in the market. After several trials, Edison made the inventedthe first item that could probably make some sense, electric voterecorder. Although the first garget did not fair well in the marketfollowing its rejection by legislators of the time, it motivatedEdison to proceed with his scientific trials and invent more gargetsthat more successfully.
Edisonfaced a stiff competition with the filament incandescent light bulbpatent because, unlike the general perception, there were otherscientists who had invented the lump in about 70 years before him.The lump was discovered in 1806 by Davy Englishman, but the onlyremaining problem was to separate light from Davy’s lamp to allowits usage in offices and homes (Krystek, 2002). Getting a patent fora slight development of the discoveries of other scientists was achallenge. In addition, the broad patenting of all textile and carbonfilaments by the original inventor of the lump limited the range offilaments that Edison could use in his lump (Merges, 2013).
Edisonhad been in the field of research for six years when he moved to atiny village known as Menlo Park. This was the first organizedlaboratory in the world, from where Edison did most of hisinventions. It is recorded that he got about 400 patents from thislab (Ground, 2013). Edison did his research with the help of otherdedicated researchers who contributed significantly to his success.The lab had assistive devices (such as the loud speakers) that couldhelp Edison work with others in spite of his mental and auditorychallenges. His ability to build the first organized lab and come upwith a large number of inventions gave him credit as one of thescientists who revolutionized the field of research.
Themain factor that resulted in the failure of Edison’s low-voltage DCinvention was its inefficiency. The invention was characterizedserious loss of power, which meant that it could not be used forlarger currents (Foran, 2004). These factors contributed to thefailure of Edison’s DC invention and subjected him to the risk ofbeing overtaken by other researchers.
Tesla’sinvention of AC defeated Edison’s invention because he addressedall the drawbacks associated with Edison’s DC invention. Tesla’sAC was more efficient and had limited power losses as in the case ofEdison’s DC. The AC invention resulted in the development oftransformer. This allowed the conversion of current into highvoltage, which could then be transmitted without losses and thenstepped down when it reached near the homes or the points of usage(Foran, 2004).
Inconclusion, the field of invention is highly competitive, but thereare chances of developing patentable inventions. Although it appearsthat nearly everything have already been discovered, the fact thateven a further development of early inventions by introducing newfeatures to increase their efficiency is patentable gives me hopethat I will soon be able to patent some invention.
Beals,G. (1999). The bibliography of Thomas Edison. ThomasAlva Edison.Retrieved October 30, 2014, fromhttp://www.thomasedison.com/biography.html
EdisonInnovation Foundation (2014). ThomasEdison famous inventions.Newark: Edison Innovation Foundation.
Foran,J. (2004). Theday they turned the falls on: The invention of the universalelectrical power system. Piscataway:Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
Ground,S. (2013). Firstorganized research laboratory.New Jersey: Ground Speaker Incorporation.
Krystek,L. (2002). Who invented the light bulb? SurprisingScience.Retrieved October 30, 2014, from http://www.unmuseum.org/lightbulb.htm
Merges,P. (2013). On the complex economics of patent scope. Patent.Retrieved October 30, 2014, fromhttp://cyber.law.harvard.edu/IPCoop/90merg2.html
Peter,D. (2014). Patent:Overview.Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Law School.