The ‘Not Invented Here’ syndrome

Since joining the British Library in 2006 I have been fortunate enough to meet many inventors. A frequent complaint is about the negativity they come across when trying to promote or sell their invention or idea. This usually stems from a ‘not invented here’ syndrome, and is very frustrating for inventors. The implication is that only a specialist working in a particular area is ‘allowed’ to come up with new ideas in that sector.

I had a client suffering from this syndrome last week, in this instance the resistance came from the shoe trade. Her experience reminded me of the story of my cousin’s invention.

He was a window cleaner and was frustrated by the difficulty in finding his clients locations using local map finding systems. In typical inventor fashion he spent some time thinking of a better way, and came up with “a method of specifying a location on a surface”. As with all the best ideas, it was very simple, and consisted of dividing the map page into 9 sections, in a 3 by 3 grid. This concept was repeated to give up to three levels of accuracy.

Unfortunately, despite having a patent application and a knowledgeable colleague, none of the map producers approached were prepared to take his idea seriously.

Given the cost of maintaining a patent over it’s 20 year lifespan he was forced to let it lapse, which means anyone can now apply the idea.

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