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Meet jStart's Master Inventors

jStart celebrates it's second Master Inventor, talks about the innovation process that powers every engagement jStart enters. Learn how jStart has embraced innovation from its inception.

By: Chris "Spence" Spencer

Often when the jStart team talks about its mission, we refer to the idea of "tangible innovation"--essentially bringing ideas to life. There is perhaps no better example of how jStart does this than its participation in the patent process--and no better embodiment of that participation than our Master Inventors and the work they do to define the very innovations the team is famous for. Collectively, the team is responsible for dozens of filed and awarded patents within IBM's patent portfolio--including some that have even been sold or licensed to other technology companies, directly impacting IBM's bottom line. We thought we'd take a few minutes to introduce two jStart team members who are our Master Inventors, get to know them, and understand jStart's impact on IBM's innvoation efforts through the patent process.

John Gerken has been creating patents for over ten years. "In my view, intellectual property is an important responsibility of every IBM employee, but particularly for those in jStart because innovation is what we do. Beyond that, there is a personal financial benefit, and it's also great from a personal development perspective...I've learned so much in the process." John initially got started with patents when he started a patent scrub team--a group of IBMer's tasked with reviewing technology created during a product cycle to consider if there are ideas that IBM might want to patent to protect its investment into the product. "Like most people getting started with patents, I got my start by working with someone who was well versed in IBM's invention and patenting process. Now, as a Master Inventor, I get to give back by helping other people get started."

"One of the things I like most about being a Master Inventor is that it allows you to take a step away from your day-to-day work. It also allows you to focus on thinking creatively about problems--and to do that with other geeks and like minded people," replied Nick Poore when asked what about the patent process was most enjoyable to him. Nick has a team he frequently collaborates with on patent concepts as well as to brainstorm for new ideas. "There are four of us who get together regularly...all of us are geeks, but we have different perspectives, and it's that variety of perspectives that really helps in identifying novel and unique ideas."


becoming a master inventor

Is there a secret to becoming a master inventor? According to jStart's master inventors, not really: "Every developer is an inventor...the key is just recognizing when you're solving a problem in a unique manner," noted Nick Poore, jStart's newest Master Inventor. "Finding a good mentor definitely helps", added John Gerken, jStart's veteran Master Inventor.

The key is being able to take a problem you may be facing in your daily job that you've solved, and understanding the unique method by which you've addressed the problem, according to Nick--and that may be the basis of a patentable concept. "When it comes to patents, it doesn't have to be a crazy or 'big' idea. It could simply be a unique way to create an optimal solution to a problem that you're running into. It requires a change of perspective and mindset, but once you do that, you'll find yourself immediately identifying all sorts of possible patents."

"Recognizing things in your daily life that are annoying, or things that you know could be done better are often good starting points for inventing," John noted. "There really are a number of ways to turn observations into good patent candidates: what would happen if you removed a constraint on how something is done today? What would be possible then? How could you make an existing technology more useable or efficient, or perhaps apply it to another problem in a novel way? All of these methods can lead to discovering a patentable idea or concept...and of course, there are many other ways you can come up with good patent concepts, too. Those just are three ways that often work for me." And that, for John is the real reason that drives his interest in patents. Well. There's one other reason John revealed: "my mom thinks it's cool."

jStart's Master Inventors

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