The greed of the few, holds back the rest.

In this article I wanted to explain with plain examples how the greed of the one, in particular with relation to inventions and patents, holds back the rest of the human race.

Below quote is taken from this article here.

Fein has had the oscillating multitool market cornered for almost 25 years now. Sure, remodelers have always griped about the high price of the MultiMaster, and the seemingly ridiculous “kick-us-while-we’re-down” pricing on the replacement blades, which sell for around $20 a pop. But now that Fein’s patent has expired, the oscillating tool market is being turned on it’s head.

You might ask what an oscillating Multitool is?
As described on the Fein website the saw was patented as a circular saw with an angular oscillating saw blade. It was used primarily in orthopaedics for cutting plaster casts. The crescent pattern of the oscillating rotation cut through the hard cast without damaging the patient’s skin. The plaster cast saw was equipped with a more powerful gearbox to upgrade it to a chassis saw. The plaster cast saw formed the basis of FEIN’s range of sophisticated oscillating power tools.

fsl-history-image-1967

From Fein website

A handy person who likes to do things around the house will recognise the tool in its current form as per the photo below.

RK5140K_sonicrafterX2_door-jam.jpg

The tools are exceptionally useful in situations where you need to cut something at an awkward angle or where you would normally have to dismantle something to get to a particular part. Anyone who has tried an oscillating multitool for the first time immediately would yell out “Why haven’t I seen these before? I need one!”.

Well. The reason why you have seen so little of them until now is that Fein had a patent on the machine and were milking it for all that it was worth. The machine was unaffordable for most. Then the patent ran out in Oct 2008 and other companies brought out their own versions. Competition made sure that the units came down in price to an affordable level. Now you see them everywhere and DIY people rejoice.

The aim of a patent obviously is to protect the inventor and its investment. And in the meantime making the invention’s details public so that others could improve on it. Time and again though it proves to serve the corporation the inventor works for alone and it robs the rest of society of the use of the invention because of the greed of the corporation. Point in case is the Fein multi tool where we all could have been using this fabulous invention 25 (!) years earlier.. We have been robbed from a quarter of a decade of technological advancement!

Happening right now at this very moment is Clip technology for 3D printing. This technology could mean that 3D printing would be practical for most applications. 3D printing is still slow in the uptake in manufacturing because of the slow speed of machines available and the minimal usefulness of the materials it prints in. For a decent print you’ll be waiting for hours. With CLIP technology however it promises the waiting time to decrease to minutes. And a lot of a hundred printed objects will take as much time as one single unit. Dramatic decrease in printing time. And they promise to have useful materials available that mimic materials used in alternate manufacturing methods.

Now, there obviously was a lot of research that went into these machines, but Carbon3D, the machine’s manufacturer only lets you use a machine on a subscription bases. And the total cost of a machine on a minimum 3 year subscription comes to USD$290,730 (as per Fabbaloo). You have to have an awful good reason to use this machine and be able to afford it.
Again, there was probably a lot of money that went into research.. But the machine itself would be able to sold with good margins for a whole load less than that. There are very few moving parts and not a lot of complexity (the beauty of the system obviously).
So instead of progressing the rest of society by charging a “fair” amount for these printers, they will for the next few decades be lining their own and investor’s pockets. The gain of a few at the expense of the many.

Obviously, the group who invented these beautiful machines, deserve credit and some kind of reward for that. But to have that happen at the expense of holding up the rest of us?

Instead let’s take Tesla as a leading example to look to imitate. They open sourced their patents only a few years after they were approved. Elon Musk wrote on their blog in 2014:

When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.

Tesla’s mission is clearly setout “to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport”. If only more founders set up their companies to accelerate the creation of aspects that could help the human race develop in a positive direction.
Having a Basic Universal Income would help a long way with this but that’s for another time to discuss.

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