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HP Looks to Public Domain for New Technology

 If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times…the opportunities are endless when it comes to the Public Domain. The problem is that we as product creators tend to have a narrow view of what product creation looks like or what opportunities are available. The truth is, opportunities to use content from the Public Domain abound…much more than you or I are currently taking advantage of. The challenge is to “allow” ourselves to think in ways that are different than we’re used to thinking. The classic definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over but expect different results. And based on THAT definition, most of you are probably insane…lol. I feel that one of my “jobs” in teaching about the Public Domain is to challenge you to get out of the box with your creativity and innovation so that you can tap into some truly amazing product creation ideas rather than accept the mediocrity of copy-cat product creation.

Last night, I was reading up on science and tech news when I came across a curious article about HP and some new technologies that they have been developing based on ideas that are in the Public Domain. I’ve included excerpts below. Notice that the article flat-out admits that the concepts were in the Public Domain (and the author is still living!).

Hewlett-Packard scientists reported Wednesday in the science journal Nature that they have designed a simple circuit element that they believe will make it possible to build tiny powerful computers that could imitate biological functions.

The memristor, an electrical resistor with memory properties, may also make it possible to fashion advanced logic circuits, a class of reprogrammable chips known as field programmable gate arrays, that are widely used for rapid prototyping of new circuits and for custom-made chips that need to be manufactured quickly. The memristor was predicted in 1971 by Leon Chua, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley. There have been hints of an unexplained behavior in the literature for some time, Mr. Chua said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

He noted, however, that he had not worked on his idea for several decades and that he was taken by surprise when he was contacted by the Hewlett-Packard researchers several months ago. The advance clearly points the way to a prediction made in 1959 by the physicist Richard Feynman that “there’s plenty of room at the bottom,” referring to the possibility of building atomic-scale systems.

“I can see all kinds of new technologies, and I’m thrilled,” he said.

The original theoretical work done by Mr. Chua was laid out in a paper, “Memristor — The Missing Circuit Element.” The paper argued that basic electronic theory required that in addition to the three basic circuit elements — resistors, capacitors and inductors — a fourth element should exist.

Because the concept of a memristor was developed almost 40 years ago by Mr. Chua, it is in the public domain. The Hewlett-Packard scientists, however, have applied for patents covering their working version of the device.

This article also reminds me again of an idea I threw out to the listeners of my Public Domain Teleseminar Series concerning the product ads you see in old magazines. We often think that physical product development based on existing products is off-limits because of patented technology, when the truth is that patents expire after 20 years and cannot be renewed. That means that any patent filed before 1988 (20 years ago) can now be used as the basis for any NEW product creation you can think of. That’s HUGE! Think of ALL the inventions that have occured over the past 100 or 200 years. It’s all available for you to use now as the foundation for new products. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office now offers the ability to search patents (full text back to 1976 and full images back to 1790). You can use their search tool here:

Have fun!


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