Most people think Levi Strauss invented the blue jean. Actually, it was Jacob Youphes (aka Jacob Davis), a Latvian immmigrant to the United States who approached Strauss with the idea of using copper rivets to reinforce denim work pants. Strauss, who knew a good idea when he saw one, accepted Davi’s offer to file for a joint patent and the Levis jeans was born. They sold many pairs of those tough jeans to gold prospectors during the California Gold Rush.
Thomas Alva Edison was credited with inventing the light bulb, but he actually bought over a patent from Henry Woodward who was an early pioneer in the development of the incandescent lamp. Edison did, however, spot an opportunity in the market and created the Edison Electric Light Company (now General Electric) to benefit from it. He even formed a joint venture with a British competitor (Joseph Swan), who had been awarded a patent one year before his, in order to avoid a potentially costly legal battle.
Lesson 1: You don’t have to be smart to be smart. Sometimes you just have to recognize when someone else is smart and leverage from it.
Lesson 2: You don’t have to be the first to invent something. You just need to be able to see the value in something and find a market for it.
Lesson 3: Intellectual property rights can be a pain. Learn to work with the system.