Flutterby™! : Concept vs Creation

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Concept vs Creation

2011-04-18 16:14:04.11456+00 by Dan Lyke 6 comments

Regarding that Jeff Koons must die link (and Exit Through The Gift Shop[Wiki], and...): A story I've heard from several parents is that moment of sitting in he elementary school talent show and realizing that all the white kids are lip-syncing and dancing to Madonna (/'N-Sync/Lady Gaga, choose your generation), and all the Asian kids are playing Bach on the cello.

I'm doing a lot of looking at advanced technologies. A recurring story there is the guy who patents something, sells it to a group of lawyers while retaining a small share. Fifteen years later, the lawyers find the people who actually managed to implement and be successful with the process, take it down to that venue in Texas that consistently finds for the litigant, and extract a few tens of millions out of the implementers.

The path to riches isn't to build stuff, it's to write some strategic patents, file 'em, sell 70% to one of the professional litigation groups, and hope for a payoff in a decade nor so.

So if the idea is so much more important than the execution, as in Jeff Koons or MBS hiring armies of art students to actually build the art, or as in all of these folks writing nebulous broad patents and waiting for someone else to actually do the heavy lifting, what's the matter with lip syncing? Concentrating on the presentation and leaving the actual musicianship to someone else?

Maybe those elementary school talent shows are just reflecting an understanding of our intellectual property and cultural landscapes that we'd rather not admit.

[ related topics: Children and growing up Interactive Drama Music Sociology Writing Art & Culture Television Race Archival ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-04-19 20:42:52.475702+00 by: Larry Burton

What you are looking for is a kid that can play Dvorak's Cello Concerto in A minor to perfection and segue into "Like a Virgin" in a way that makes it all seem natural. There is your value.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-04-19 18:35:32.621243+00 by: Dan Lyke

I've heard that same tale in times separated by 15 years and different extremes of the country, and, yeah, my initial reaction was "whoah, the Asians are gonna kick our butts!", but as I've thought more about the value of actually being able to build something vs the value of the idea, I'm not sure that the "I'm going to combine Madonna with my dancing to impress my classmates" doesn't have more value than the "I'm going to get really really good at playing the music of a long dead guy in a very strictly structured way in order to impress my grandparents."

#Comment Re: made: 2011-04-19 14:11:05.303063+00 by: other_todd

If the idea were the money part and the implementation negligible, there'd be no way for people who write fiction to make any money at it.

Oh, wait ....

Actually, sour jokes aside, I'm much more interested in your anecdotal first paragraph, which I'd like to add to the Cultural Rot file, except I'm not sure which of the two cultures stereotypically described is worse: the white kids lipsynching talentless trash with no value added, or the asian kids robotically playing tired classical bits their Tiger Mom parents have forced them to learn absolutely perfectly by rote.

Yes, I'm in a very bad mood today. Keep all firearms away from me.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-04-18 17:49:54.137504+00 by: Dan Lyke

One of the many that's been described to me recently is a guy who patented what's basically the Kindle interface system in the context of an automobile entertainment device. I'll have to dig up the details, but he recently went a after a few car companies with iPod interfaces, the lawsuit resulted in a few tens of millions of dollars changing hands.

Similarly, I talked to someone who knows a guy who claims a patent on tying car fuel status information to the nav system to automatically route to gas stations.

Big attempts on big targets isn't the way to go, it's small attempts, a million here, a few million there, that seems to be the right way to go.

And, yes, I'm starting to look at how I can work with a few folks to try to build a patent portfolio.

But the other thing to contemplate here is that manufacturing, especially with 3d printers, is going to get cheaper, so the ability to make things would be less important, the what you make would be more so. Which may not be a perfect analogue to the "lip syncing to Madonna vs playing Bach" observation, but I think there's some more thinking that's worth doing.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-04-18 17:41:21.584206+00 by: petronius

This sounds a little bit like the Winklevoss brothers and their endless suits against Facebook. The theory seems to be that the original idea is the patentable element, and the implementation negligable. Many years ago I read an odd story that had Arthur C. Clarke wondering if he could claim a patent on the communication satellite. The lawyers opinion was probably no. The point made was that when Clarke suggested geosychronous satellites in 1945, the most powerful rocket on Earth could only reach about 40 miles before it fell back on London. At that time there was no idea that the technology would reach fruition in less than 20 years, so you couldn't patent an idea that depended on some separate non-exisiting support tech. So I can't patent warp-drive and wait around for somebody to first discover dylithium crystals.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-04-18 17:35:18.936944+00 by: ebradway

There is still an important level of follow-through necessary in writing a defensible (offensible?) patent filing. If the details aren't right in the filing, then the lawyers won't have the teeth to win in 15 years.

For the small-time idea guy, this definitely seems to be the way to go. You develop a portfolio of patents that become your retirement income. Kind of like photographers building a large collection of stock photos.

And as I think about it more, this is also how IBM has managed to continue existing. IBM seemed like a dinosaur in the 90s but they held key patents in everything from user interfaces to hard drives to microprocessors. The royalties on these patents were like an IV of funds. I think Microsoft is doing the same thing now - file tons of patents based on pure research because they can't actually implement anything truly new.