Chapter 6

Inventions and Inventorship: Challenges and Complications

Each of us has a concept of an inventor. It may be a vision of Thomas Edison looking over his light bulb, or Samuel Popeil holding up his Pocket Fisherman [1]. The pictures in our minds often range from a team of scientists and engineers to the lone dreamer tinkering away in his garage, trying to come up with a product that will make him rich. Just as most people have various concepts of inventors, the concept of an invention also differs, sometimes within a single individual.

A person may view an invention as a complicated but significant technological advancement or as a clever, but possibly useless, product from an in-flight catalog. Sometimes people assign moral value to an invention, judging it as either good or evil, or possibly both. John C. Garand’s invention of the semiautomatic M1 rifle helped win World War II, likely saving numerous American lives. However, as an instrument of war, the rifle has brought death to countless others.

What is a Patent?

Many people have the mistaken impression that an issued patent is like a government-issued award recognizing some kind of significant technological advance. This impression is often fed by advertisements that make outrageous claims that generally run along these lines—“This product is so amazing and/or advanced that the United States government has recognized it by awarding it a patent.” This perception is quite common, especially among those who have not worked ...

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