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An invention is a creative achievement by means of which a new solution to a problem , i.e. the achievement of a new goal with known means or a known goal with new means or the triggered repetition of a new goal with new means, is made possible. Inventions are often referred to in connection with technical problem solutions, for example the invention of the engine or dynamite . Such inventions can be protected by a patent or as a utility model. There are also inventions in the cultural field. Modern opera , for example, is considered to be Claudio Monteverdi's invention .

Invention and Discovery

The discovery is to be distinguished from the concept of the invention . One discovery concerns what is already there, which is previously unknown and whose usefulness is indefinite. So nothing has changed as a result of the discovery (apart from the associated increase in knowledge of an individual or the general public). Examples are the discovery of gravity , a planetoid, a chemical or an animal species. An invention, on the other hand, always relates to a new finding that was previously unheard of. However, this thing is related to what is already known, it does not appear as something completely new. Changes are made to known objects or processes so that their effect is qualitatively or quantitatively improved.

Today there is a tendency to relate inventions only to technical processes or objects and to exclude abstract things, such as the invention of a new meter.

A more exact definition is: Discovery is the first description of a law of nature , e.g. B. the electrical force between atoms or a law derived from natural laws, z. B. Coulomb's law .

In contrast, invention is the application of the laws of nature in a previously unseen constellation to solve a given problem (technology). Thus, any initial description or application of a technique is an invention, for example a solar sail for spaceships. A new meter does not apply any laws of nature and is therefore not an invention, even if this creation were new and ingenious.

First inventions

Naturals already made their first inventions. In particular , they concerned tools that resulted in better use of the arm and hand. After man had discovered that a stone in the hand increased the effect of the arm, he was able to give the stone a special shape in order to increase its effectiveness. This led, among others, the invention of the hand-ax , the ax , the ax , the hammer , the sickle and sword .

Critics argue that humans cannot call themselves the first inventor. Today it is known from zoology that even “simple” animals, such as birds, have the necessary skills to make inventions and pass them on to their fellow species. Higher mammals (chimpanzees, gorillas) are even very good at this. However, even if this approach is affirmed, it is hardly possible to classify such an event in the field of technology, which would by definition be necessary for real inventions.

The process of invention (Geneplore Model)

Finke and others (1992) dealt with the processes of creative invention taking into account the Geneplore model. According to this model, two phases can be distinguished in invention processes:

  • In the generative phase, so-called preventive forms are developed; In the exploratory phase, these preventive forms are interpreted and improved with regard to their function. Finke and others tested this approach by having test subjects combine three different geometric figures (for example, a cube, a semicircle, a string) to form complex objects under different experimental conditions. It turned out that the test subjects achieved creative results more often when given the figures and the object category to be created than without these specifications. So a limitation by the task leads to more creative results.
  • In further experiments it turned out that particularly creative results are also achieved when test subjects initially only combine the three objects without considering the object category or function (or when they first synthesized preventive forms).

According to Finke and others, the preventive forms have a function-independent aesthetic and are also characterized by implicit meaningfulness , so that they can be interpreted in a versatile and flexible manner. These results suggest that the principle of function-follows-form should be applied more frequently to creative tasks .

TRIZ is a formalized process for concrete problem-solving approaches that can lead to inventions.

Effect of inventions

Our western civilization is largely based on the use and consumption of goods (and services). These have to be worked out. This is generally experienced as unpleasant, at least in terms of its quantity, which is why people largely strive to work as effectively as possible (use of tools) or to have the necessary work done by machines - a goal that most inventions also serve.

In addition to dealing with the often profound side effects in other areas, this required technical development on three levels:

1. Material: You need a variety of durable, resilient tools

For thousands of years mankind has known how to find and process iron (and other things).

2. Energy: The tools have to be manufactured, then you have to work with them.

After the use of beasts of burden, water and wind energy, the introduction of steam and other heat engines from 1700 enabled a dramatically improved availability of energy; plus electricity: working hours were reduced and people were relieved of heavy physical work.

3. Information: Tool construction and use require knowledge, knowledge processing and transfer.

The emergence of first analog, then digital data technology has increasingly enabled automated production for around 100 years, i.e. enabling a reduction in performance pressure and other embellishment of the way of working, such as partial or total exemption of people from work or rededication of work to education, care and the like .

For whether an invention leads to progress , it is not technology that is decisive, but social acceptance. However, this acceptance can also be forced through external influences. One example of this is the enforcement of the invention of paper money in China. Anyone who refused paper money as a means of payment was punished with death .

Patentable inventions

A patentable invention is measured against the current state of the art and is one

Non-obvious teaching on technical action, that is, an instruction on the use of controllable natural forces for the immediate achievement of causally foreseeable success.

In German , Austrian and Swiss patent law stipulates that the invention lie in a technical field needs. This made it clear that a patent can only be granted for a technical invention, but must also be granted equally in every technical field.

Non-patentable inventions

Discoveries are not patentable. Nor are scientific theories, physical laws, or mathematical models considered inventions; they too are discovered.

Intellectual and creative works from literature, music or art are not classified as inventions either. Legal protection of such works can result from copyright law.

Computer programs are usually not patentable inventions. Exceptions exist if the program is used to control natural forces (e.g. airbag , electronic engine control ). The exact delimitation is currently being discussed very controversially (see software patents ).

In the European Patent Convention (EPC) , the exclusions are listed by the patent law concept of invention in Article 52nd

Laws and agreements

  • European Patent Convention Article 52.

See also


  • Peter Albrecht: Ingenious inventions. From the can opener to the internet . Edition XXL, Fränkisch Crumbach 2008, ISBN 978-3-89736-351-9 .
  • Johann Beckmann : Contributions to the history of inventions. 5 volumes, Leipzig / Göttingen 1786–1805.
  • Hans-Joachim Braun : The 101 most important inventions in world history. Beck, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-406-50859-6 .
  • Gabriel Christoph Benjamin Busch : Attempting a Handbook of Inventions. First in 8 volumes, Wittekind, Eisenach 1790–1798, later in the 4th edition as a handbook of inventions. in 12 volumes, ibid and bnei Haas, Vienna 1805–1822.
  • Oskar Dick: Evaluation and utilization of inventions with examples of patents and licenses. Guide for registration and evaluation with tax and evaluation guidelines for freelance and employee inventions. 2nd Edition. Oppermann, Hanover 1968.
  • Johann August Donndorff: History of the inventions in all parts of the sciences and arts from the oldest to the present time. 4 volumes. Quedlinburg, Leipzig 1817.
  • Stephen van Dulken: The great book of inventions. Ideas that made history. 2nd Edition. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2005, ISBN 3-538-07187-X .
  • Ronald A. Finke, Thomas B. Ward, Steven M. Smith: Creative Cognition. Theory, Research and Applications. MIT Press, Cambridge 1996, ISBN 0-585-03104-5 (Chapter 4, English).
  • Sava Kulhavy: Invention and patent theory. Methodology of handling this teaching from its basics to practical application. Heymanns, Cologne 2009, ISBN 978-3-452-27120-4 .
  • Christian Mähr: Forgotten Inventions. Why doesn't the soda locomotive work anymore? DuMont, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-8321-7744-2 .
  • Jörg Meidenbauer: DuMont's chronicle of inventions and discoveries. DuMont-Monte, Cologne 2002, ISBN 3-8320-8764-8 .
  • Marcus Popplow: Invention. In: Encyclopedia of Modern Times. Volume 3: 'Dynasty' - 'Lines of Friendship'. Stuttgart 2006, Col. 435-440.
  • Polydor Vergil : Polydori Vergilii Urbinatis De Inventoribus Rerum Libri Tres. Venice 1499.
  • Hubert Weitensfelder: The great inventors . Marix, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-86539-944-1 (= Marix knowledge ).
  • Roland G. Zahn: Invention, Patent, Money. A bumpy and uncertain obstacle course. Rosamontis, Ludwigshafen 2008, ISBN 978-3-940212-19-1 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Invention  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Inventions  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Inventions  - Sources and Full Texts

Individual evidence

  1. [1]
  2. Ulrich Schnabel: Technological progress: This is how the new comes into the world . In: The time . September 14, 2019, ISSN  0044-2070 ( [accessed November 17, 2019]).
  3. John Lanchester : About Money - The Invention of Money. Deutschlandradio, accessed on November 17, 2019 (German).
  4. a b European Patent Convention Article 52