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GE to Crowdsource Product Development from Patent Portfolio

Ben Kaufman, left, CEO of Quirky, and Beth Comstock, GE's chief marketing officer

Ben Kaufman, left, CEO of Quirky, and Beth Comstock, GE’s chief marketing officer, at the 10 April 2013 press conference announcing their companies’ collaboration (Quirky.com)

General Electric Company and Quirky, a product development company using social media, are collaborating on developing GE patents into consumer products. The two companies also are partnering on smartphone-enabled apps connecting to useful or important systems in people’s day-to-day lives.

Quirky is a social network where inventors and product developers can submit ideas and have them reviewed by other community participants. Feedback from the community, numbering about 392,000 members, often leads to redesign of proposals that Quirky’s in-house designers, engineers, product developers, and marketers can then bring to the marketplace. The company says since its founding in 2009, it developed some 320 products and built a distribution network of 188 retail partners, including household names such as Best Buy, Target, and Amazon.com.

Under the partnership, GE will open to Quirky’s community in May 2013 three parts of its patent portfolio for development proposals:

– Optical systems, including holographic storage technology for archiving large amounts of data and fast-focusing lens technologies for high resolution 2-D image capture of 3-D images

– Barrier coatings that use thin film encapsulation to protect electronic devices from degradation by moisture and oxygen, for applications in smartphones, televisions, and solar panels

– Telematics and asset tracking technology to monitor the location, movement, and behavior of a vehicle or fleet of vehicles

GE says its patents in these three fields number in the thousands.

The collaboration will as well develop a new line of smartphone apps, co-branded as Wink: Instantly Connected, that link smartphones to critical devices in the home providing health and security, as well as clean air and water. Promising ideas generated under this part of the collaboration, say the companies, would be developed through GE’s manufacturing tools and technologies. First proposals for new apps to be evaluated on the Quirky network are due by Wednesday 17 April.

“For years patents have become widely misunderstood and misused,” says Ben Kaufman, founder and CEO of Quirky, commenting on the partnership with GE. “We are going to return patents to their original purpose to act as a blueprint for technological and societal progress while protecting inventors and becoming a source of inspiration for future creators.”

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