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Xerox Parc innovators

Publication Date: 
August 26, 2011
The Irish Times
Davin O'Dwyer

A research paper written by Professor Mark Lemley titled, "The Myth of the Sole Inventor" is mentioned in this Irish Times article by Davin O'Dwyer in which he discusses Xerox Parc, a legendary hub of innovation that is often credited with pioneering invention.

In a recent research paper, Stanford law professor Mark Lemley points out just how far from reality is the popular perception of the innovation process. Entitled The Myth of the Sole Inventor , the paper debunks the image of the lonely genius toiling in his lab, refining his inventions until they are ready to change the world.

He writes, “The canonical story of the lone genius inventor is largely a myth . . . Surveys of hundreds of significant new technologies show that almost all of them are invented simultaneously or nearly simultaneously by two or more teams working independently of each other. Invention appears in significant part to be a social, not an individual, phenomenon. Inventors build on the work of those who came before, and new ideas are often ‘in the air’.”

Lemley’s point is to challenge the fundamental principle on which the patent system is predicated: in order to encourage innovation, you must incentivise the lone inventor.


In short, in keeping with Lemley’s suggestion that innovation is a social phenomenon, Parc’s proximity to other centres of innovation, as well as its own team ethic, were critical to its success.