One of these lies in just how the world manages the creation and ownership of inventions and concepts. A protectionist approach to Product Patent is designed to protect and prolong the lifecycle of existing technologies, and enable innovators to capture the earnings from their creations. In a paper published with colleagues from universities in Germany and India, we examined how this also makes it tougher for new and more sustainable technologies to be developed and adopted. That explains why there are now other approaches being used to move key sectors to more sustainable systems and end this status quo.
Electric car manufacturer Tesla, has become doing just that. Tesla CEO Elon Musk “shocked” the world in 2014 when he announced that his company was joining the open source movement and giving away its patents free of charge. It is essential to be aware of the rationale here. Why would a company who had worked so hard to develop and protect its technology looking at the global car manufacturer competitors suddenly give its technology away for free?
Tesla initially created a patent portfolio to protect its technology. However, Tesla’s concern that it might be overwhelmed once established car makers ramped up their creation of electric cars never came to pass. Instead, it saw the electrical car market stagnate at less than 1% of total vehicle sales. So Tesla changed its strategy from seeking to prevent others from building electric cars to attempting to encourage them to the market.
Part of the reasoning here is when more electric cars are made, then more battery recharging stations will likely be built too. This would make electric cars become a little more visible, along with a more conventional choice. Tesla believes that the open intellectual property strategy can strengthen instead of diminish its position because they build the size of the electrical car market, and as a result, build its very own share of the total automotive market.
This kind of careful control over How Do You Patent An Idea at company level, supported by policy-level awareness, can be a powerful method to keep the same kinds of transitions to more sustainable technologies in other industries too.
Energy supply faces an array of difficulties: the depletion of natural resources; air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; nuclear risks; and security of supply. This type of water supply sector is fixed by water scarcity, pollutants, extreme environmental events like flooding and costs associated with supplying water to communities in poor countries and remote communities. The agri-food sector, meanwhile, is under pressure to sustainably produce more food and also to address malnutrition in poor countries.
For such industries to navigate a path around these complications, new knowledge and also the innovations that follow is going to be essential. And in knowledge economies, intellectual property can either be an enabler or perhaps an inhibitor.
In the event the ownership of intellectual property is fragmented in an industry, it can slow down technology innovation and uptake, like within the electronics industry where multiple players own complementary patents. However, firms can instead open their innovation processes and move away from jealously guarded, internal cultures, where intellectual property can be used to briaac and prolong lifecycles. This change may see knowledge sharing that leads to accelerated innovation cycles and a more rapid uptake of sustainable alternatives throughout a sector: just what Tesla was dreaming about in electric vehicles.
This approach to intellectual property, so-called “open IP”, is well advanced and mature inside the software industry and healthcare. It provides given use of life-saving medicines to millions of people, specifically in developing countries through patent pools, including the Medicine Patent Pool. This kind of project relies on multinational pharmaceutical companies sharing their New Ideas For Inventions, but small companies can also play a strategic roles in creating these new, more sustainable systems, and it’s not all about open IP.