Internet Fuels Craze For New Inventions: Who Is The Next Edison or Bell?
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Internet Fuels Craze For New Inventions: Who Is The Next Edison or Bell?

Inventing is in the middle of a huge boom, fuelled by the web. The US alone approves some 180,000 new patents every year. People never cease creating new ideas for products and services, and refining existing patents, a talent that has grown by leaps and bounds since the days of iconic names like Bell, Edison, Ford, Eastman and Hoover in the past. But it is the easy communication enabled by the internet which gives the new wave of inventing its dynamic.

Back in the late 19th century someone said the US Patent Office should be closed down, because everything that could be invented had been invented and therefore it wasn’t needed any more. That view could be called short-sighted, because these days the United States Patent and Trademark Office grants approval to over 180,000 applications yearly.

America has always been a powerhouse of industrial and commercial creativity, and it may be that the founding fathers should be thanked for that. A clause in Article 1 of the Constitution empowers Congress to promote science by giving “authors and inventors” exclusive rights to their work for a set period of time.

But no one country has a monopoly on bright ideas, and the current international frenzy for inventing new widgets suggests that the more we invent, the more creative we get.

Of course, the internet is these days playing a big role in inventing. Before it was itself invented any prospective Einstein had his or her work cut out finding the specialists needed to facilitate the development, manufacture and marketing of their good idea. Now a quick visit to a search engine brings everything you need to know onto the screen.

All countries have legal procedures for protecting the rights to an invention and the US is typical, with a website that guides the hopeful inventor through the process.

Controversy has surrounded some of the most famous inventions. For instance, Bell is not the only one to claim he invented the telephone. A Quaker farmer from the Mid West of the United States is said to have beaten him to the idea, but it was Bell who got the legal right to call it his.

William Hoover, whose name is to this day synonymous with vacuum cleaners,  never claimed to have been the inventor of the first of the machines that made him famous. He simply knew a really good idea when he saw one and purchased the patent off the man who did invent it. After that, they got rich together.

And what is an invention anyway? Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile, but he did invent a more efficient way of making them. Protecting processes as well as products is an important aspect of patent law and a subject that keeps many lawyers gainfully employed.

An entire industry has grown up around the modern craze for inventing, with numerous countries having inventors’ clubs, specialist magazines, invention fairs and conferences, and so on. But without the internet little of this would be possible. For inventors, the worldwide web must be the best invention ever.

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