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Patented Innovation

By APICS CEO Abe Eshkenazi, CSCP, CPA, CAE | 0 | 0 | June 20, 2014



The patent wars between tech innovators Apple and Samsung finally might be dying down after a federal jury found last month that the companies had infringed on each other’s mobile device patents. Most of the damages were awarded to Apple. Last week, the real patent news didn’t come from a tech giant at all—it came from Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, who announced the company would openly share its patent portfolio with the rest of the world.

“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” Musk said. “If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

Musk’s blog post announcing the action emphasizes the size of the automobile market. “Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.” Musk adds that this move also is intended to help Tesla attract engineers who want to work for a cause, rather than just for a corporation.

Tesla is based in California’s Silicon Valley, and this patent move shouts out to the company’s tech neighbors as well as its automaking rivals. Last week, Wired magazine covered the story and quoted Julie Samuels, executive director of Engine, a public policy and research think tank. “A lot of companies in the high-tech space are dismayed with how the [patent] system is shaping up, so they’re trying to come up with creative ways to navigate around the system and get back to the business of innovating and creating.”

Tesla adds its name to the likes of Google, which has vowed not to take legal action on open-source products, and Twitter, which promises to use patents only for defensive purposes.

Bold thinking to mitigate risk

So, while the subject of your organization’s patents might seem far removed from supply chain and operations management, consider the idea that might unify all business processes—innovation. Now, think about the following definition of “innovation risk” from the APICS Dictionary, 14th edition: “The risk of losing customers because another firm creates more innovative products.” If you aren’t thinking about innovation and how it relates to supply chain and operations management, you are leaving your company vulnerable.

APICS is proud to welcome two innovative thinkers as general session speakers to APICS 2014, October 19–21, in New Orleans. First, Mike Walsh, who is the CEO of Tomorrow and author of Futuretainment, will speak about how deciphering emerging technologies and disruptive shifts in human behavior can lead to better business productivity. Next is Ethos Water Founder Peter Thum, who will share how his personal successes have been built on addressing global issues and how he created a brand from the ground up. You can find out more about both speakers online at apicsconference.org or in the upcoming July/August issue of APICS magazine. APICS 2014 early-bird registration ends June 30, 2014. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how you can apply innovative thinking to your work challenges every day.

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