You have a chance of being awarded a patent on your invention only if your idea is "not obvious to persons of ordinary skill and knowledge", I learned the other day, when intellectual property attorney Charles Reeves spoke at my Circle Business Network group. In fact, this "non-obvious" requirement is one of the most difficult steps in the patent process, according to Webpatent.com, yet "it’s a critical hurdle for inventions to clear".
Business bloggers face originality challenges as well. Of course, printed materials involve copyright law rather than patents. Susannah Gardner and Shane Bailey, authors of Blogging for Dummies, point out that "Anything and everything you see on the Internet is protected by copyright." In an earlier blog I advised avoiding plagiarism by properly attributing statements to their authors (see "Ties That Tell the Truth In Blogging"). You can do that with direct quotes, by paraphrasing others’ remarks, or by creating links in your blog posts to other websites (just as I’ve done in this post).
When it comes to business blogging, though, I think there’s more than legality to observe, and more to learn from the rule about patents. We know Google and friends’ "Feed me!" refrain means that, to move higher in search rankings, blogs must provide fresh, relevant content. Perhaps even more important, though, bloggers need to introduce fresh ideas simply in order to engage readers’ interest. But, with the sheer volume of information on the Web on every topic under the sun, how do we keep providing new material in our blog posts week after week, month after month, even year after year?
And aren’t most of our readers "persons of ordinary skill and knowledge"? How can we continue to offer information in ways that will not be "obvious" to them? Here are just two ideas:
- Bring in less well-known facts about familiar things and processes. Edible Chicago magazine featured Burton’s Maplewood Farm in Medora, Indiana, explaining that there are two grades of maple syrup. "We offer an ‘A’ grade syrup that is typically used on a dish…pancakes, waffles, crepes, etc. and a ‘B’ grade syrup that has more antioxidants and is preferred by most of our Chicago chefs."
- Suggest new ways of thinking about things readers already know. For example, before hearing the Charles Reeves presentation, I’d known that many products and processes were patented, but was unaware how originality was measured by the "non-obviousness" standard.
"I didn’t know that!" is the first response you’ should be aiming for from blog readers, followed by "So how can I use that information to my advantage? I’d better find out more!"