The Impact of Patents: Cinematic Insights

September 8, 2023
2 Min Read
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The Impact of Patents: Cinematic Insights

The founding fathers deserve credit for the underpinnings of the US patent system detailed in the Constitution.

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries - U.S. Constitution Art. I, clause 8.

Inventors disclose their inventions sufficient to teach future inventors how to repeat them in exchange for a limited time monopoly (e.g., a patent).  Other inventors read the patent to understand the technology and/or innovation. They improve on the disclosed invention and make new technology, thereby advancing the state of the art.  The cycle continues. Society wins because they have access to better technology and the speed of innovation also lowers costs.  

The Netflix original film “the Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” illustrates the cycle at its best.   In the film, drought threatened to wipe out a village in Malawi.  The historic solution to the problem of drought — waiting for rain — proved ineffective.  Without some kind of intervention, the drought would obliterate the village.  

The protagonist of the story, William Kamkwamba, devised a technical solution to the problem: i) harness the energy of wind by building a windmill; ii)  convert wind energy to electrical energy using a generator; iii) use the electrical energy to power a pump to draw water from a well; and iv) distribute the well-water using an irrigation system.  He drew inspiration for his solution by reading books at a local library.  William, through ingenuity and sheer will, was able to build the windmill system, which saved the village.  

Without the enabling invention disclosures that William discovered in the library, his village would have been decimated by the drought.  Inventors may never know all the beneficiaries of their intellectual property, but they very well may save a life, or a village.  Fortunately for William (and Netflix) the founding fathers devised a brilliant mechanism for increasing the state of the art, and Congress memorialized this brilliance in the Patent Act.  

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