G.E. Opens Thousands of Patents To Quirky Inventors

by Adriana Lee | April 11, 2013

G.E. is doing something that’s unthinkable for other companies: It’s opening up a windfall of its patents so other inventors can take those ideas and run with them.

quirky-geWell, okay — not exactly run. But close. The corporation is joining forces with Quirky, the hub for indie inventors seeking crowd-sourced support and development resources, to put thousands of G.E. patents on the table. If a creative type can spin one into something worthwhile, it could end up as part of the companies’ co-branded line of products.

In particular, the focus is on the “Internet of Things,” which is essentially the trend to push all sorts of devices onto the Internet. The products — which would be app-enabled appliances and other gadgets spanning health, security, water, HVAC systems and others — would fall under the umbrella of the “Wink: Instantly Connected” brand. Of course, G.E. has its own lingo to describe this, dubbing it “the ‘Industrial Internet,’ or the internet of really big things — with the internet of everyday things. Consumers and businesses will not buy more things they’ll need to think about, but rather be surrounded by things that think about them.”

So it’s about “things,” got it? Creative things, connected things and, most importantly, things that won’t get inventors and developers hauled into patent infringement litigation. Neat.

And why not? Far too many companies patent whatever vague ideas they can think of, only to sit on them until someone has a similar idea. This is when they become a moneymaker (and a time-suck for the courts).

What we like about G.E.’s deal is that it makes sense for all parties concerned. The company can’t work on every single promising patent it has — again, the well is deep, with thousands of different ideas — so it lets people who can and want to develop them have a crack at it via Quirky. There’s minimal risk, and revenue from resulting inventions are shared. It’s a win all the way around — particularly for consumers, who get access to even more innovative products.

So what are we talking about? Well, the press release offers these examples:

  • Optical systems, including holographic and fast-focusing lens technologies – GE’s holographic storage technology can be used for archiving large amounts of data and fast-focusing optics technology enables rapid, high resolution 2D image capture of 3D images, currently applicable to markets ranging from contactless fingerprinting, to semi-conductor quality control and medical optics.
  • Barrier coatings – GE’s Ultra-High Barrier technology enables thinner, lighter electronic devices including smartphones, televisions and solar panels by using thin film encapsulation to protect electronic devices from degradation by moisture and oxygen.
  • Telematics and asset tracking technology – Modules used for commercial fleet tracking and vehicle navigation systems, which are used to monitor the location, movement, and behavior of a vehicle or fleet of vehicles.

So how could those be applied to consumer uses? Looks like we’re about to find out.

For more, hit up the press release below or hit up Quirky.com/GE.

[press_start]

GE And Quirky Partner To Inspire Invention

GE to Make Thousands of Patents Available to Global Community of Inventors
Companies to Develop and Bring to Market Co-Branded Line of App-Enabled Products

NEW YORK, April 10, 2013 –– GE (NYSE: GE) and Quirky, the company that makes invention accessible, today announced a new partnership that will allow everyone to participate in the development of new products with two global leaders in invention and innovation.

The partnership will consist of two parts: a groundbreaking new platform where GE will open thousands of its most promising patents and new technologies to the Quirky community for the development of new consumer products; and a co-branded product development initiative to build a full line of app-enabled connected devices for the home in areas such as health, security, water, or air that will be developed using advanced manufacturing tools and technologies. This new line of products will be co-branded Wink: Instantly Connected.

Combining GE’s technology and scale with Quirky’s collaborative process and speed provides a platform that will truly unlock the power of GE’s lab-proven technologies and the potential of the app-enabled product category. The partnership represents a marriage between what GE has dubbed the “Industrial Internet,” or the internet of really big things — with the internet of everyday things. Consumers and businesses will not buy more things they’ll need to think about, but rather be surrounded by things that think about them.

Beth Comstock, SVP and chief marketing officer, GE, said, “We admire Quirky’s speed, collaboration and inventiveness and by opening up lab-proven technology and patents to everyday inventors we can help inspire new ideas and accelerate advanced manufacturing innovation. At GE we are passionate about innovation at market speed, working with entrepreneurs and finding new models of business, and this partnership is just another way we can help inspire invention and help scale it. We are excited to see how the Quirky community uses tools from our scientists and technologists around the world to develop products in an entirely different way.”

GE Patents & the Quirky Community

In May, GE will make thousands of U.S. patents available to the global Quirky community, which may be used as the basis for creating new consumer product ideas. Quirky will develop a new platform designed to inspire inventors to find new and unexpected uses for existing technologies.

Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of Quirky, said, “Thousands of patents from one of the most inventive companies in the world will be available to provoke, inspire and drive a whole new way of thinking. For years patents have become widely misunderstood and misused. We are going to return patents to their original purpose to act as a blueprint for technological and societal progress while protecting inventors and becoming a source of inspiration for future creators.”

Some of the first technologies that GE will open up include optical systems, barrier coatings and telematics:

  • Optical systems, including holographic and fast-focusing lens technologies – GE’s holographic storage technology can be used for archiving large amounts of data and fast-focusing optics technology enables rapid, high resolution 2D image capture of 3D images, currently applicable to markets ranging from contactless fingerprinting, to semi-conductor quality control and medical optics.
  • Barrier coatings – GE’s Ultra-High Barrier technology enables thinner, lighter electronic devices including smartphones, televisions and solar panels by using thin film encapsulation to protect electronic devices from degradation by moisture and oxygen.
  • Telematics and asset tracking technology – Modules used for commercial fleet tracking and vehicle navigation systems, which are used to monitor the location, movement, and behavior of a vehicle or fleet of vehicles.

“This is good news for innovators, consumers, and our country,” said David Kappos, partner at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, and former director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office. “There is tremendous value in patented ideas, and it is wonderful to see new collaborative ventures aimed at moving such ideas into the marketplace.”

GE & Quirky Co-Branded Product Development Initiative

GE & Quirky have come together to co-develop a full line of app-enabled products that will allow you to instantly connect to the things that matter. Today, creative people worldwide are invited to go Quirky.com/GE to submit ideas and help in the creation of an entirely new product line. GE and Quirky will review the first round of product ideas during a special product evaluation on April 17th, 2013. The companies and experts in the Quirky community will continue to review ideas as part of the ongoing partnership and regular Quirky review process. The new line of products — “Wink: Instantly Connected” — will be developed by Quirky and distributed to top retailers.

“This is one of the most exciting new categories in consumer products. Our future will be driven by access to things via our smartphones. There is a ton of invention to be done in this area and no one owns this category,” Kaufman added.

More information on the partnership can be found at: www.quirky.com/GE.
[press_end]



Adriana Lee

Adriana is the resident writer-slash-culture vulture who has written about everything from smartphones, tablets, apps, accessories, and small biz...