Game changing innovation, patent strategy and company size
Can large companies create truly game changing innovation or is it just too hard for large companies? and what does this mean for patent strategy?
This has naturally prompted a lot of discussion, not least of which from Harvard Business Review. Bill Taylor at Harvard has blogged about it and subsequently been interviewed on the HBR IdeaCast about his post. In essence, Bill argues that with rare exceptions, large companies can not create disruptive technology that is truly game changing. Instead at best, they can come up with incremental improvements. The exceptions he cites are Apple and IBM – both of which had to have a near death experience to prompt a dramatic rethink. Bill says that almost all of the world’s disruptive technologies have come out of small, venture capital backed companies, not large ones.
This is all pretty interesting, because there’s been increasing pressure over the past 12 months on the validity of patents which cover incremental improvements – based largely on obviousness. In India, section 3(d) is a prime example (and it looks as thought it will spread across Asia). In the US, KSR v Teleflex clearly reinforces this view.
So, is Bill right – can large companies come up with game changing / disruptive technologies, or is it all just too hard for them? If that’s right, what does that mean for the value of the patents they file as the law of obviousness continues to squeeze out incremental improvements?
I’m personally with Andy on this one. Large companies can and regularly do innovate well beyond incremental improvements. They’re in a unique position to structure their innovation processes to get the best of both worlds – the resources of a large entity and the pace and creativity of much smaller teams. Provided that they have the foresight and the determination to see it through.
What do you think?