Thursday, October 30, 2014

Patents: Solution or Problem?

Recently I have had two different experiences that have caused me to think really hard about patents and whether they are really a solution or a problem (or maybe a little of BOTH) in this new age of information that we are hurtling into.

The first event was a lecture by Prof Anil K.Gupta at Guelph a few nights ago. It was inspiring and uplifting to hear this great man tell how he has walked the land in India (and apparently in several other countries around the world) LEARNING the wisdom that the local peoples of those lands have to offer. Many have done this in the past but his is a completely non-exploitative approach. He looks for opportunities that might solve a problem for someone else and that can be commercialized. When and if he succeeds in taking the knowledge and commercializing it he shares the rewards back with the folks who had given him the knowledge in the first place. The network is called the Honeybee Network (an unfortunate choice since it has almost nothing to do with real beekeeping). He proudly mentioned in his talk that he has many patents for different technologies. That started the thought in my head. The cost to obtain these in all the countries his network works in (35 at last count I think), to enforce them and to license them seemed to me to be contrary to the "brand" that he was trying to establish - share the wealth of knowledge that is languishing in the traditions of indigenous peoples around the world for the betterment of everyone.

To be fair, he did mention that he gets a lot of help (from law firms amongst others) in reducing the costs of getting the patent in the first place. But that is where the problem started for me. It has been said that "It is amazing how everything looks like a nail when all you have in your toolbox is a hammer." (I did mention that there were TWO recent events. The second was a discussion with a patent-lawyer friend of mine who really unknowingly convinced me that patents were NOT always the way to go). Patents, like unions, certainly had their place in the early years of the industrial revolution. To be able to manufacture something and sell it at a profit one had to do a lot of expensive research. To recover these costs and to make the knowledge eventually available to the general public, it seemed appropriate to grant one some monopolistic rights for a limited time.

Today there is so much knowledge available to everyone and so many technologies that will aid the production of quick prototypes etc. and so much state (read your tax dollar and mine) sponsored research that one might well argue that the tremendous investments of time and costs to just find out if something has a chance to work is reduced not extended.

Surely there will be those who will point to the increasing costs of developing a drug in the pharmaceutical world and the increased time to get it approved etc. There are indeed fields where it may yet make sense to patent inventions. We are not 100% there yet. But do we see a trend where the number of such fields is increasing or decreasing? Even the pharmaceuticals industry has argued that the idea of the limited time to be able to recover their investments is insufficient. They would of course like MORE exclusivity but the fact remains that even for this industry (the bastion of patenting in a way) patenting in the old traditional sense is not working. We are entering an age of information and knowledge. The more we share it the better off we are all in terms of being able to maximally leverage it to improve our own lots and those of others.

Lest you are thinking that I may break out into a verse or two of KumBaYaa soon let me assure you that I am at heart a capitalist. I want to see free competition and a vigorous marketplace. But do we need monopolies to do that? Doesn't it sound protectionist to be granting people monopolies even for a limited time? Shouldn't we be relying on market forces to bring about the better products rather than the smug feeling that one can do whatever one wants for some time before one has to answer for it? This is what has happened in the IT world for example. The pace of improvements is so fast now that patenting is NOT considered a serious alternative. Increasingly, folks in that field rely on staying ahead of the market, on trade secrets, and on the ingenuity of their employees (whom, by the way, they have to CONSTANTLY woo to stay where they are) They have found other means like copyrights etc to protect their longer lasting inventions. And the pace of growth in this industry is second to none in my opinion. The developing world (I really hate that term. I wish someone could come up with a better descriptor) has also shown us that patenting may not be relevant there. The costs to inventors, and the rapid pace of incremental invention (to say nothing of the slow and sometimes complicated legal system in their countries) almost makes it uneconomical to patent anything. One simply has to rely on tried and true things like reputation, market acceptance, grass roots desirability etc. to succeed. Is this an altogether bad thing? I think not.

As the pace of change accelerates in all walks of life we will one day face the challenge that the time and cost to obtain a patent will be greater than the expected lifetime of the object in the marketplace before it is superseded by the next better, cheaper, faster thing. I contend that there are still ways to make money in this sort of marketplace but I question whether patenting is one of them. Those who embrace change early have a chance to ride the wave of experience.

Monday, May 26, 2014

NECESSITY (not grant money, or passion, or culture or anything else) is the mother of innovation.

I am writing this mostly for myself. I don't expect anyone else to read it let alone voice an opinion about its contents. I have finally had enough. I am a proud Canadian of some fifty years or so. I've often wondered about the apparent gap in out ability to take great research and convert it into good market-ready innovations that move the needle of our economy. I run a company that is dedicated to making a difference in this area. I've read all the books that the pundits have written about how risk averse we are (read "blah, blah, blah") and how we need to change the culture or the mindset of the people etc. etc. etc. Here's a thought for you: If we continue to import the best people from all over the world how come THEY can't start the change for us? Bottom line: I don't think we are addressing the right issue in bemoaning our culture etc.

The simple fact is that we are living in one of the richest parts of the world no matter HOW you care to measure it. We have all the basics - food, water, shelter, clothing - by and large in GREAT abundance in this great land of ours. And we have so much more! Don't get me wrong, I don't mean we are all well off. Sure there are places that do better than others and groups that do better than others in Canada but ON AVERAGE we are a lucky lot to be just living here in Canada as compared almost to anywhere else on earth! There's an old saying that necessity is the mother of invention. I was at another of these rather common sounding talks this morning where the speaker spoke enthusiastically about how we need to do things which we have a passion for and how we need to take more risks and not be afraid to fail. I'm sure if you are ALIVE and in this country you have not escaped such talks completely. He gave example after example of great innovators and great inventions. He spoke of the "hub" of such innovation - Israel. He gave examples of his life where he has had to be inventive and he gave examples of the banking industry where the littlest bank - Tangerine - simply HAD to be nimble and inventive because they were - as it were - dancing among the feet of the BIG giants of the banking industry and would be crushed if they only stood still long enough. All of the many inspiring examples he gave had one thing in common. They had a SURVIVAL need to innovate. There was a wolf at the door, their very existence hung on their success at being innovative. And it begged the question for me: Until we have dug out the last resource from our beloved country or exhausted the last easy extraction of wealth from this land, HOW will we have this need to innovate which drives every example of success that you can think of?

So in a sense there is some relief in what I am saying for me. It says that our failures as a nation to succeed at innovation are not the function of an inbred cultural gene that blocks innovation that needs to be removed through cultural reshaping or anything else. We are humans like all the rest of our species Until we have a NEED we will not be inventive enough as a nation. Here is one case where I hope that I am wrong but even if I am right I am confident that when the challenge arises we will rise to it simply because we are... yes HUMAN.

Now I must come to the nub of what bothers me: our government has a long tradition of interfering in the harsh free market directly rather than attempting to "level the playing field" through legislation. Their most recent fashion is to support entrepreneurship - a noble concept on the surface if well executed. Their solution is to shower your tax dollars and mine on anyone who says they are helping young entrepreneurs in some way. The number of incubators and start-up competitions cropping up all over the country is simply staggering. The government can say they are doing their part by supplying the money. But I have a problem with that. There is no strategic leadership to go along with that supply of money. I understand that this is politically unwise for a government to appear to be "picking winners" as we say in Canada. So they blame the implementation on others. But I contend that they are doing the whole area of entrepreneurship a dis-service by supplying easy money and other support to start-up companies. They have removed the SURVIVAL need from most of these so-called "grantpreneurs" which would otherwise drive them to succeed. They have converted their desire to succeed to a desire to be supported. Let's face it, there is a difference in the effort that will be put into survival by someone who has mortgaged their house, maxed out their credit cards and borrowed from all of their relatives and that which will be invested by someone whose company started through a grant from the government.  In the family context we call that a failure to launch. We have lowered the selection criteria for launching something that looks like a start-up but has absolutely no chance of success from the brutal market forces to a kinder-gentler one that is more painful to all of us in the long run because, if NOTHING else, it dilutes those who are REAL entrepreneurs and puts them at a disadvantage in the short term. I am not against helping those with promise. I think we have gone too far and made this into a political game that will not serve anyone well and will simply delay the inevitable.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Does a track record in Business matter?

Yesterday, I was at a rehearsal for a start-up company competition. My job was to look at the three FINALISTS in the competition - start-ups that had "made it" to this point and who would be presenting to an illustrious group of REAL judges in a few days so that a "winner" could be announced then. I was struck by a common feature in all of these companies. They each had a world-class academic with multiple decades of scientific experience as their founder and scientific leader AND they each had a young (in some cases not even yet GRADUATED) MBA student as their 'C' level business leader. Does that strike anyone else as odd?

There are probably several explanations for this phenomenon. Probably there is some sort of government subsidy for a new employee who is taking on their first job. It is possible that there is a genuinely noble thought of giving some young person a start in life. They may have had some relationship with the scientific leader (relative or former student for example) etc. But ALL of the reasons that I could think of should also have applied to the scientific side of the company. Yet NONE of them had made this choice on the science side. Why is it possible that the same academics who would never consider giving the scientific leadership of the company that they founded to some recent graduate (even from their own groups!!) would happily give the BUSINESS leadership to a similarly inexperienced stranger from another discipline?

As I ruminated on this strange phenomenon - one which I see repeated ALL across the country - I could come up with only one explanation; one that I am sincerely VERY loathe to accept (hence this blog to recruit other explanations from my readership). The only explanation I could entertain in the end was that scientific academics have extremely low respect for the value that an experienced business person brings to the eventual success of the startup. Is it any wonder then in Canada (where the OVERWHELMING support for start-ups and innovation is based on the assumption that academics somehow are best equipped to create this country's future Sustainable Global Companies (SGCs)) that we have no real world-class global companes to show for our DECADES of adherence to this approach?

Now, I have heard many times from serious nvestors that "It is far better to invest in mediocre technology and a stellar business team than the other way around". Is it possible that there is some truth to this saying? Could it be that as Canadians we are investing in the wrong BUSINESS end of the success story? Would it be worth even taking a larger FRACTION of what we invest today in technology and investing it in our Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) so that those with a proven BUSINESS track record can expand their operations, try something new, increase their capacity for risk, open new markets for themselves etc. etc. etc. and maybe someday even BECOME SGCs.

I know that there are several government programs that supposedly help the SMEs. But by and large the SMEs I meet all tell me that the only interaction they have with the government is at tax time. So I ask, would we all be better off if we started to help smaller but strategically already proven companies become bigger global players? Would this approach be better than our government continuing to squander all of our collective bets on the belief that academic technologies are the answer to our future?

As usual your comments are most welcome.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Is "Mentorship" becoming a four letter word like "Innovation"?

Yesterday I was part of a teleconference set up by one of the many start-up incubators that have been springing up like mushrooms all over the country in response to the Government's well-meaning but misguided insistence on investing in the Startup side of the economy without any regard to how one would RETAIN these companies in Canada after they mature.

The truth is that a MAJOR part of any success of any start-up, of many of the careers of our future leaders, and many other important facets of our economy; depends on volunteers who have decided to put something back in this great country of ours. If one paid the standard consulting fees to this army of people all over the country for their endless hours spent in helping those in need of their hard-earned experience, we may well bankrupt certain segments of the economy and halt the progress that our Government so sincerely wants to help forward. It is often taken for granted that such individuals will step forward and do what needs to be done to make the flashy government investment actually SUCCEED on the ground. These folks do what they do for a simple reason or two. They usually want to help the next generation benefit from the mistakes they have made in the past and their joy is seeing that the price they have paid to gain this experience is reduced by the fact that others benefit from the lessons learned for free. Another great driver I have noticed is that they want to connect with the next generation of leaders of society and build trans-generational understanding and friendships in this global, non-linear world we live in today. These folks in my opinion are true mentors. They want little more than the joy of the long-term interaction.

Yesterday's well-intentioned teleconference hit a nerve. The moderator had a need. Because of limited budgets and a pressure to show results he was trying; in the best tradition of Canadan-ism; to be all inclusive in his definition of "mentors". For him anyone offering some free service that could be used by the start-ups that he was incubating, was a mentor. I want to emphasize that I don't FOR A MOMENT seek to demean the services that law firms, accountants, etc. offer for free to such start-ups. It is an equally valuable and vital part of the survival of what the Government likes to portray as THEIR investment in the future. But it is not the same as mentorship in my eyes. It is more of a soft sales pitch not different in detail from any offering of a "free" sample of a drug, or other product (in this case it is a service). On the internet we have a name for this. We call it a "free-mium" offering. Something useful is offered free so that you get hooked on using it and then hopefully you upgrade to the paying premium version.

Admittedly, it is a grey area with many having difficulties in making a clear distinction between what I have described as mentorship and a version of fremium offering. But I want to say that if we can't reserve a name (MENTOR) for that special class of people who really give without ANY expectations then we shortchange the very group to whom we owe so much already. ANY expectation of a business transaction taking place as a result of providing any goods or services is - I would  humbly submit - NOT mentorship. We need to find another name for it and appropriately show our gratitude for that too but it cannot be called mentorship. True mentorship to me is something sacred. Every one of us who have succeeded at something have a mentor to thank for some role in that success and we would not be doing them all a service by mixing them up with other equally valuable but distinct activities.

The latter is no less vital or necessary or desired by companies and young professionals alike. It is, and it should be, acknowledged and valued. I simply submit that it is NOT mentorship. Mixing the two up and blurring the lines is not good for either part of this very vibrant ecosystem of ours.

Your views and comments are always welcome.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Good v Evil (?)

Something has been ruminating in my mind over the last few weeks and months and I THINK I have it ready to share now in at least a "strawman" or draft form. The thoughts I have been having, seek to go to the root of what will open our hearts and minds to evil things however we may define them and what will possibly counteract those things.

I have come to a rather simple (but I hope not simplistic) thought that at the root of all things that I consider negative or "toxic" forces in my life are four mental states: FEAR, HATE, ANGER, and DESPAIR. If I examine what the root cause of negative things happening in my life are, they are all reducible to these four "horsemen of the apocalypse" as it were. Fear of one thing or another is by far the most important of all of these in the world even in a historic sense. If one considers the amount of evil that has happened in the world because of this one factor, one is astonished. Even some of the others (hate and anger) can in some ways be thought of as "progeny" of fear. So if one wants to change things one REALLY needs to recognize fear as the "gateway" drug of evil and try one's best to live a life of "No Fear" as the old bumper stickers used to proclaim.

Now if one examines what can be done to counteract these forces that play a role in our lives one sees at once that the counteracting POSITIVE forces are TRUST, LOVE and HOPE (yes unfortunately there aren't conveniently four to help our artificial ideas of symmetry).

We are at a time of the year of making resolutions. What if we decided to recognize the seven forces that play such an important part in our lives and to adjust them so that we achieve a POSITIVE balance in all we do. Would that be something we could live by for the rest of the year? I for one am going to try.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tech. Tran. and the "Societal Contract"

Let us imagine a one-day brainstorming exercise at a well known Canadian university. I'm going to write it as if it REALLY happened. We were charged with looking at the technology transfer activity of that university from a “zero-base” starting point and coming up with a set of principles and policy guidelines that would make the whole activity better from the ground up. In attendance were all of the major players of the university – a member of the Board of Governors, The President, and most of the Vice Presidents. There were even a representative number of Deans and Chairs.

The day was divided into two parts:

- The morning session (with a break for lunch) would be to get a clear picture of what Technology Transfer meant (or better, SHOULD mean) to this institution and what the major obstacles were in the way of it BEING that optimal organizational machine.

- The afternoon session would then focus on how those obstacles could be removed to clear the path towards actually achieving the state that was envisaged as optimal.

It seemed like a good strategy.

The morning went reasonably well. There was of course the usual discussion about the role of the university in generating funds through commercialization the expectation of the granting agencies etc etc etc. To some “commercialization” is a “dirty” word on campus while to others it is the only path forward, making this a VERY controversial issue on most campuses in Canada. I was galvanized however by a definition that was readily reached by everyone. The role of the University is to enhance the society that feeds it and nurtures it. There seemed to be some sort of a universal agreement that there was an implicit “social contract” that the society would care for ITS university and that the university would in return enhance that society in every way possible. On this there appeared little doubt. The ways in which the university would justify the immense investment (make no mistake we invest our sons and daughters AS WELL AS HUGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY) from society included putting great minds and trained personnel into that society; great artists and inventors, scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians with a set of moral values etc. – and THINGS: improvements in our carbon footprints, ways to live sustainably, cures for diseases, etc etc etc.

Working with this remarkable unanimity we quickly focused in on the WAYS that this social contract can be fulfilled and by lunch we had come up with the definition of the ideal function of Technology Transfer being to put back into society the TECHNOLOGIES that had been invented through public funding as widely, quickly and efficiently as possible. This was clearly at least sometimes at odds with the goals of COMMERCIALIZATION which were centered around making money (sometimes sufficient to run the office, sometimes more than that). So we made a clear distinction between commercialization and Tech. Transfer. The harmony between groups that had disagreed for a long time about a place for any such activity on campus seemed to dissolve into thin air before us as we continued the dialogue. It became clear that the disputes were around the making of money through this activity. Of course I am simplifying greatly a debate that has raged on our campuses for quite a while but the principle is nonetheless true. The major obstacles that were identified seemed to center around two topics and, after a simple process of grouping and consolidation of thoughts, we came up with them just in time to write them on the whiteboard and break for lunch:

The purpose of a university is to better society which supports it and the Technology Transfer activities of a university need to serve this greater “societal contract”.

The major obstacles to Technology Transfer (as defined here) are:
1. The need to own IP
2. The need to participate in revenues from our inventions

The session after lunch was actually quite lighthearted and optimistic. It was quickly realized that the two major obstacles were under the COMPLETE control of the university itself. There was a simple clear path to achieving the goals of the ideal TTO. Give up its desire to hold (and of course to DEFEND) IP and simultaneously give up its desire and expectation to gain monetarily DIRECTLY from revenues that may result from the commercialization of one of its inventions. This is not such a remarkably unorthodox or novel idea as it may seem at first. The colleges in Canada owe a large part of their recent success in Technology Transfer (they call it something else and define it much better) to these two simple principles coupled to a third one: "We measure ourselves by the placement of our graduates in your companies". Even the government granting agencies have realized that their mandate to create jobs and improve society is more directly served by the colleges' actions than the universities' TTOs. Such great centers of learning as the major universities even in the US (the heartland of commercialization and free enterprise) have learned this lesson and have imposed limits on what an academic can make in revenues from any invention.

Another convincing argument for this approach is the careful examination of what one would be giving up. Few if any universities have made significant revenues from an invention compared to their general overall budget. For sure there are always the cases which defy the general rule. Taxol, Gaitoraid, WARF, and some remarkable other classical success stories come to mind. But surely the generality of that rule is not challenged by one or two exceptions. The general rule is that, for all of the effort that is expended in the field in Canada, there is hardly a justification for it based on the overall revenues that are received. And lets not forget the cost of obtaining this right to exclude others (that is what a patent is after all) and the damage that a lawsuit or a court battle (even if it is eventually won) can bring to a university.

The second part was a bit more contentious: Give up any claim on revenues. There is always the possibility that an invention will become a blockbuster drug or the new internal combustion engine or the new data compression algorithm for all cell phones etc. Why lose out on the chance to make some money. The reason was clear to this group. IT OBSTRUCTS THE CORE PURPOSE OF TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER. Industry is long past the selfish shortsighted era where it would not decide to nurture the very source of its new ideas and future products. That is amply shown in the case of Waterloo where RIM has been known to write multimillion dollar checks to the university more or less just by being asked and without any contractual tie to do so as a result of a technology licensed from that university.

So now the only thing that lay before us (and our flights home) was a plan of how this would be implemented. And HERE is where the creativity comes in. Take yourself out of the box of conventional thinking for just a moment and play along with me now. After all you have read down to this point haven't you?

If a university were to announce one day that it had the mandate to put technologies as quickly, widely, and efficiently into society as possible and as a result was prepared to GIVE AWAY an exclusive, worldwide right to commercialize (for free!) to that company which could demonstrate that it could do this best, then the table would have been turned overnight. Companies would approach the university instead of the usual unsuccessful approach by the TTO to companies. They would bring a “business plan” to the table rather than a skeptical attitude. They would tell how they could benefit society with the invention rather than asking the TTO to show them how this could be achieved. The nature of the contract would also be very different. It would be built around the promises made in the proposal and it would hold the company to that delivery or else the license would be revoked and all of the information and data generated so far would revert to the university and IT would be free to re-announce the competition – now armed with more real and useful innovative data. It would project the TTO into a place in society which really made a difference – that of the steward of value between the inventor and the societal benefit. The idea is not ENTIRELY new either. Joe Irvine of the University of Ottawa has in fact done this (in part) with some success. I believe that the TTO has announced that it will give away rights to its technologies for a limited time so that industry can take the technology for a “test run” and see what it can do. After that the university would be ready to negotiate a more formal contract. I would suspect that the limitations on the initial success of this approach are because the industry is not ready to trust that the terms will be as advantageous to them after they have demonstrated (to themselves and to the TTO) that the technology has legs. But the principle remains.

Bottom line: If, as people involved with the transfer of technology into society, we want to change the way we impact society we need to admit that the BASIC premises of what we do are not right and that we need to rethink the very foundational assumptions we have relied upon until now. In so doing we don't actually give up that much in reality and we gain a whole new perspective – of ourselves, our purpose, and the metrics by which we measure our success and along the way we align ourselves to the more wide societal contract that is the foundation of a university's success. The two ideas outlined above are a start. I would welcome any and all discussion as usual.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The EASt may be the solution

In the last four days I have visited no less than TWO of the three cities rated as the top on the scale of unemployment in Ontario if not CANADA as a whole. The three cities are Peterborough, Oshawa, and Windsor. It strikes me that the auto crisis in North America is hitting some people really hard. All that infrastructure that goes into an auto plant, all those highly skilled people and all of that support structure from the towns and provinces going to waste hit me hard. I began to think "What can I do?". It would have been easy for me to dismiss this thought and just forget about it. After all I am a mere CHEMIST. I have never been involved with the auto sector professionally except VERY recently and that too in only a peripheral way. But the thought kept nagging at me.

It was a long drive back from Windsor and this gave me time to rethink a conversation I had had there and to refine it. Somewhere we were discussing developments in India in the auto sector and how they are producing now (after the success of the Tata Nano)a car that will run 300 miles on a tank of... (wait for the drum roll) COMPRESSED AIR! They are setting about solving THEIR problems and addressing THEIR needs. It struck me that we in Canada are actually NOT doing that. Rather, we are allowing ourselves to be absorbed by a marketing campaign that is suited for the US and generated by the US and that actually doesn't suit our needs in Canada in this sector in some key ways.

I recalled that almost a half century ago some bright mind in India had thought about the needs of the middle class. They had decided that a STABLE manufacture of a relatively good but not "fancy" or "stylish" car at a reasonable price was the MAIN need. They went to the Austin company (in the UK) and bought the details for the manufacture of the model of the Ambassador car for the year just completed. They then made a commitment to make this SAME EXACT car for the next decade, year after year. Think what that did for the price. Think what that did for the "after market" industry for this particular make and model. Think what that did for the RELIABILITY of service - literally every auto-mechanic in the COUNTRY would eventually know this car like the back of their hands. Almost fifty years later in 2005 I stepped off a plane from Canada to India. There, to greet me was a brand new company car from the host company. Guess which one it was??? YES the SAME one that had been made there year after year for that long. The so-called Hindustan (the name given by these astute folks to the Austin Ambassador). I got into a conversation with the driver and he said that the after-market industry in this car had flourished to such a point that it was unthinkable that anyone would be able to stop its manufacture. You could quite literally do almost ANYTHING with these cars now.

I wonder if the Canadian minivan is not that sort of a car for Mums all across Canada. Think what they want: Reliable, easily serviced, reasonably priced, roomy enough for the 2.5 kids and high enough to be safe in the traffic. Of course reasonable on gas would be a plus but really that is getting much better these days for even the minivan. And there is no end to what one can think of to do in this category in after market add-ons.

What if some enterprising moneyed person were to buy this years minivan details and take one of the minivan factories that is now being abandoned and commit to make the SAME minivan for the next decade. Would that turn our auto sector around? Could it make jobs where today there is despair? Could its inevitable success spill over to say... the Pickup Truck sector? Who knows. But it is an experiment that has succeeded somewhere else in the world. And lest you are thinking "That could work in a DEVELOPING country but not in a DEVELOPED country like Canada."; that same experiment worked with taxis in London some years before the Indian experiment.

I think I can venture a guess as to where your mind is going at this time. You are probably thinking "Yeah but I like the fact that I get "new features" with each new model. That after all is the thrill of getting a new car." Let me point out that this is a marketing ploy invented by big companies with the PRIMARY aim of squeezing out the after-market industry so that those dollars spent there are funneled back to the big companies in the first place. Every one of us doesn't get a new car each year. And when we do we like some of the new features but I can't think of anyone who likes ALL of the ones they got and NONE of the ones offered by the competition. With the purchase of a simple relatively cheap "standard" model and a thriving after-market industry (need I point out that this could be UNIQUELY Canadianif such a canadian minivan were to be manufactured!) we could all get the features we WANTED - and only those - and we could get them as we could afford them not being forced into buying them all of them at the same time. Think of the eco-friendliness where car parts that have NOT outlived their useful lifetimes can be simply reused and the parts that have come to their useful limits could be simply replaced. We do some of this tese days but the used parts industry is very redundant. Look at the scrap yards in the country if you have any doubts.

Who knew that sometimes old and foreign is a possible solution to today's domestic problems. Your thoughts would be most welcome.