[PLUG-TALK] Robert Kearn and patents

Keith Lofstrom keithl at kl-ic.com
Wed Mar 16 11:26:51 PDT 2011

On Wed, Mar 16, 2011 at 09:48:48AM -0700, wes wrote:
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kearns

The wikipedia article is good. 

My summary is that Kearns had patents for electronically
controlled intermittent windshield wipers, as valid as
most patents, that is, not very.  His circuits are simple
and obvious, because it is a simple task.  Nonetheless,
patents were issued, and he sued most major manufacturers
and got about a buck a car.  If all the recent innovations
in a car were subject to such fees, they would cost about
$10K more.  Galen might want to look up some of those
patents, just to see how simple they are.

While Kearns was a so-so inventor, he was a royal pain in
the ass, to himself and others.  His quest for retribution
cost him his friends, his marriage, and his inner peace.
He got millions of dollars.  He lost his soul.

There is no public interest in enriching courtroom jockeys
like Kearns.  He added nothing except a higher barrier to
outside contractors and consultants at most companies. 
Much of my income comes from licensing my patents.  It is
a small fraction of what I used to earn consulting.  The
startups I loved consulting for died - mostly because
they did not share information.  As open source software
demonstrates, the way to advance is to collaborate.  If
we can't learn from the successes and failures of others,
we are forced to learn from our own failures, and small
companies can't afford that.

Innovation used to be a death sentence.  It still is in
some backwards parts of the world.  It a blessing to live
in a country where this is not so, and a blessing to have
good ideas to share.  While I do not have a mansion and
limosines, I saved enough to live frugally, and that is
a blessing, too.  Greedy litigious bastards, individual,
corporate, or governmental, are not blessings.  Except
perhaps as counterexamples, reminding us how fortunate
we are not to be such people.


Keith Lofstrom          keithl at keithl.com         Voice (503)-520-1993
KLIC --- Keith Lofstrom Integrated Circuits --- "Your Ideas in Silicon"
Design Contracting in Bipolar and CMOS - Analog, Digital, and Scan ICs

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