Science Scope

Love at first patent - where unused inventions get a new life

Love at first patent - where unused inventions get a new life

Posting in Technology

For the thousands of unused patents, there is still hope for a new lease on life. One site helps match up innovators and patents.

The US Patent Office approves hundreds of patents each week. Trust me, I know, I used to go through them all to find interesting ones for Scientific American's Patent Watch column. There are a lot of patents in there. And chances are, a lot of them won't wind up  being used in anything in particular.

So what do you do with an unused patent to bring it to life? You set it up with innovators who might be able to dream up new uses for that technology.

Think of Marblar like a dating site for patents and users. Patented technology that isn't being used goes up, and innovators look for things they might be able to develop. There's even a cash prize of 10,000 for the best uses.

"There are a lot of dormant inventions just gathering dust in research universities," says Daniel Perez, Marblar's CEO, told New Scientist. "This is taxpayer or philanthropy-funded research that isn't demonstrating the impact it could. So we'll simply be asking our users how they would use this invention."

The best part is that, perhaps unlike the dating sites you use, Marblar seems to actually work. Samuel Arbesman wrote, in Research Fortnight:

It seems to work. A pilot competition to find a use for a new method of binding DNA strands together without using an enzyme resulted in the sponsor of the competition getting two possible start-up ideas. That seems to be the way for Marblar to make money: organisations that are unsure what to do with a technology that they’ve licensed put up money for a competition, Marblar runs it, and the community finds the answers.

So the next time a university comes up with a patent that finds no use, or a business is looking for inspiration, they can turn to the web and perhaps find a match made in heaven.

Via: New Scientist

Image: epSos.de

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Rose Eveleth

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Rose Eveleth is a freelance writer, producer and designer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, OnEarth, Discover, New York Times, Story Collider and Radiolab. She holds degrees from the University of California, San Diego and New York University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure