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Are Patents Just Playbooks? Lessons from Space X and a Colorado Brewery

SpaceX is kind of like a great craft brewery in Colorado.

I saw on Business Insider that Elon Musk told Wired's Chris Anderson that SpaceX isn't exactly patent-crazy:

We have essentially no patents in SpaceX. Our primary long-term competition is in China—if we published patents, it would be farcical, because the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book.


We've seen conscientious objectors to the patent war before, but Musk's motivation is different. It reminds me, as do many things, of beer.

Last year, a Longmont, Colo., brewery produced what is hands-down the best bottled stout I've ever had. It's Left Hand's Nitro. Instructions on the bottle tell you to pour the stout directly into a glass and don't be shy: This beer's not going to foam over and spill all over your counter. It's going to have that beautiful, thick, stouty look that until now you've associated only with a Guinness poured for you at a bar.

Yes, the folks at Left Hand perfected a method of bottling a nitro beer—they're the first to do so in the U.S.

How Left Hand did it is a secret. "We thought about taking out a patent on that process," says Chris Lennert, vice president of operations for the Longmont-based brewery. "But then our process would become public and other people would be able to figure it out."


I don't know who benefits the most from this comparison—Left Hand from the comparison to SpaceX or SpaceX from the comparison to Left Hand.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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