kNOw Future Inc.

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Windsurfing – the Sport of Grassroots Innovation?

At the moment I’m reading Eric Von Hippel’s “Democratizing Innovation” and was delighted to discover that his opening example of user-driven innovation relates to windsurfing, because I’m rather partial to a blast on the water myself. He describes how in 1978 an informal user group in Hawai reduced the otherwise painful process of jumping on boards by attaching footstraps so that (i) you could control the board better and attain more speed (ii) reduce injuries by staying with your board rather than wiping out.

The funny thing is that there had previously been a patent infringement case fought around windsurfing in Britain, as someone tried to claim the board plus rig as their own invention. During the court case, someone was able to dig up a photo of a DIY windsurfing board sailed somewhere in Wales, where enough of the basic idea claimed had already been experimented As the photo had been published it was prior art which made the resto of the invention obvious, defeating the patent claim. So there it is, windsurfing, not only cool but also the sport of innovation from below!

For the curious the windsurfing case forms the basis for the test of non-obviousness and can be found:

Windsurfing International Inc. v Tabur Marine (Great Britain) Ltd [1985] R.P.C. 59

March 16, 2007 - Posted by | /, patent, social cooperation

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