Ever wondered what you could make with both the schematics and the patents for dual cooling jets or a miniature electric motor? Well pretty soon, you can stop wondering.
The social product-development company that's known for democratizing inventing yesterday announced a new partnership with industrial giant General Electric to help surface ideas and inspire inventions that could both revolutionize the home and the way inventors invent.
"When I started Quirky four years ago, I did it for one reason: To make invention accessible," says Ben Kaufman, the 26-year old founder of Quirky at a press event in New York. The new partnership, he adds, "will allow us to make great products together and change what it means to be an inventor."
The effort will be two pronged: First, Quirky and GE designed an "inspiration platform" that will eventually house the schematics for up to 1,000 patents that the multinational conglomerate plans to release to the Quirky community. When the platform launches in May, Quirky users can expect to be able to flip through GE's available patent options and simply click a button to use them.
Note that come launch day, not all of the patents the company plans to release will be available, says GE's CTO Mark Little. The full spectrum will get released over time, he adds.
Besides use of its proprietary patents, GE has offered up tools and other resources to ensure that a Quirky-community generated product using its designs gets made.
Beth Comstock, GE's chief marketing officer, says one of the goals of this platform is to devise commercial applications for patents that were originally designed for big-business products, not necessarily consumer goods. "On a consumer level, it's hard to appreciate or connect to a jet engine," she says. "We felt like we wanted to team with Quirky to bring more of that consumer spirit to life."
As for the second prong, that pertains to a co-branded effort between the two companies called Wink, which is already open for Quirky users to submit ideas. GE and Quirky's joint goal for this initiative is to develop and commercialize a full line of app-enabled products for the home in areas such as health, security, air and water. As Kaufman puts it, "We're about to create things that aren't just more things for you to think about, but things that are actually going to think about you."
Several of the products through this initiative are expected to hit store shelves by Black Friday, says Kaufman. For the inventors out there, he adds that the commission structure for products created through either prong of the partnership will remain unchanged.
GE will also see some benefits. In addition to licensing fees for use of its patents, it will receive a share of the revenue when a Wink, or connected device, goes to market, says Tiffany Markofsky of Quirky. GE will also receive royalties on products in which GE patents are used, she adds.
For more on the new initiative, head to Quirky.com/ge.
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