Patents, Publishing and Innovation

When is it better to “do it yourself”?

What inspires creativity and what sustains it? I’m sure freedom is a factor, I’m not sure profit is. As a scientist, I had experience with the dichotomy of the $1 patent and the $100,000 product. I should explain. An inventor might receive a one-time payment of $1 for the discovery and writing the patent, but in the production path that follows each patient may pay up to $100,000 a year for the discovery, as a prescription. It may be believable, or unbelievable , and it seems absurd. My personal experience showed that employers toss literally one dollar on the table, and then they own the invention completely- rights, profits, all of it no matter who’s name is first on the patent. This was the case on my two patent applications as the inventor. Yes, inventors must be paid by employers in order to sign away their rights to the invention. That’s patent law in the US. But it does not say how much, and so for me, $1 it was.

In a highrise by a huge window overlooking midtown in the glaring sun, after the dollar bill floated to the table, I (seated) was informed by the employers (male, standing) that they owned me; my thoughts, my inventions, and my patent. I smiled, it seemed ridiculous and because I’m somewhat detached it was amusing. The new owners smiled, they seemed pleased, in a different kind of way devoid of humor. It is one of the scenes burned into my memory that on the telling seems tragic but in the experience was, well, truthfully just humorous. Ownership of thoughts? I’ve never quite gotten the concept.

Did it stop me from inventing? No, because creative freedom was still intact. But it certainly was not encouraging and did add a bitter taste to the work environment. After that, when I see news on the pricing of new drugs I just have to shake my head and smile again, that we actually think that this is to encourage the creativity and innovation of our inventors. It is comical.

So, this year the time came to publish some of the fiction stories I’d been writing all my life since childhood. I’d sent them here and there over the years, with many fascinating letters back from editors about my style and gift, but without any real aggreement on getting something out in print. I had to ask myself while walking around in midtown Manhattan on lunch breaks and looking up at the steel and glass towering over me that had the imprint of the publishing world giants emblazened over their entries – was traditional publishing for me? Was I going to give up ownership, again? Well, no. It just could not be done.

And so I’m a publisher, a little business of my own – J.J.Brown Author – in Brooklyn NY. This is my experiment with creative freedom. When I publish my stories they include a copyright and what ever other rights are out there in the business world I hardly claim to understand. But a big difference from how I worked as a scientist is that these rights don’t belong to someone else. My first book of fiction came out in August this year, “Death and the Dream” (the patent story is not in there, but a few other laboratory experiences are, fictionalized). It’s a good feeling, I can say, and has added to creative freedom the sense of independence and the potential for sustainability.

When do you think you should “do it yourself”?

Related links – You may also be interested in J.J.Brown “Death and the Dream” short stories at:

5 thoughts on “Patents, Publishing and Innovation

  1. It’s my first time here (was brought by our Twitter connection!) and love it. You’re obviously a very thoughtful, intelligent person – makes me want to read your fiction, and I certainly will!

    Patent regulations are hugely unfair to employees and in fact, going the self-publishing road is probably the best way to go if you value your creative freedom. I know I have, and really for that very reason. A secondary reason was that literary agents didn’t seem to grasp what sort of stuff I wrote: I didn’t fit into any given “genre” and that’s a huge problem – I take it that must have been yours too!

    Please come and visit my blog so that we can get to know each other more! I feel we probably have a lot more in common than we suspect…

  2. Sometimes other work environments are like prisons, paid a set amount and being constantly pushed to out produce and maintain increasing production rates. They ( the wardens ) can dely payment of promised bonuses, pay you less the next year becuase they own you, inspite of record sales and expansion during a repression era. It motivates me that in time with better writing, more books, good reviews, and good old word of mouth maybe someday I can remove the shackles and take a step closer to freedom.

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