Where Have Edisons Gone ?
or
A Way To Unleash Innovation Much More Effective Than TRIZ

Y. B. Karasik,
Thoughts Guiding Systems Corp.,
Ottawa, Canada.
e-mail:karasik@sympatico.ca

A few days ago Turner Classic Movies (TCM) played "Edison, the Man". I watched the movie with interest. And what have I seen ?

Edison comes to New York and gets hired by Gold and Stock telegraph company to work on creating a stock ticker. The company pays him salary, provides materials and tools. Eventually Edison invents the device and files for patent. The managers offer him to buy this patent. He does not know what to ask and the managers first offer him $20,000. He remains silent. Then $30,000. He remains silent. And finally $40,000 at which point Edison regains the faculty of speech and promptly agrees. After receiving the money he quits the company and builds the first world R&D facility "Menlo Park", which gives birth to electrical bulb, electrical lighting of cities, phonograph, etc.

I disbelieved what I saw on the screen of TV and rushed to the computer to verify the information. But it turned out to be correct. Chapter VII of "Edison, His Life and Inventions" by Frank Lewis Dyer describes the episode as follows:

Thus, had not the company paid Edison the astronomical sum for the inventions he made while in its employ, there would have been no Menlo Park and all what it produced: electrical light, phonograph etc. This is in the stark contrast to the current practices of compelling all employees to sign in advance that any inventions and discoveries they might make during their employment would belong to the employer. Apparently in the times of Edison employers were "stupid" enough to not require the prospective employees to sign such a rights transfer agreement prior to the starting date. On the other hand, that is probably why innovation flourished those days.

The current practices apparently killed Edisons. Against this backdrop teaching TRIZ to corporate talent looks pretty ridiculous and hypocritical. Is it not better to legislatively declare all agreements between employers and employees about rights assignment before invention is made and patent is issued as having no legal force ? Is it not better to introduce the innovators' bill of rights ?