No, Mazda, Edison did not "invent" over 1,000 patents

That’s a still from the opening of a TV ad for Mazda’s CX-5, which, as you might guess, celebrates the car’s innovativeness. (See the ad here if you want, but it’s not really worth it.)

That little caption drives me crazy. One does not “invent patents.” One invents inventions, which then may be patented. But patenting something doesn’t mean one invented it. 

In fact, a lot of the patents held by Edison or his businesses were invented—or, some allege, stolen—by underlings at his Menlo Park research lab. And there are arguments back and forth to this day that some of Edison’s greatest “inventions” were simply refinements of inventions created by others. 

But, no. What would have been wrong with the caption, “Thomas A. Edison, world renowned inventor?” Or even, “Thomas A. Edison, inventor who changed the world?”

Holding a patent on an invention doesn’t prove who invented it. It just establishes a legal basis for protecting the commercial exploitation of the idea, which the litigious Edison well understood.

Ugh. If you are going to sell innovation, shouldn’t you understand what it really means?