One of these lies in the way the world manages the creation and ownership of inventions and ideas. A protectionist approach to intellectual property is made to protect and prolong the lifecycle of existing technologies, and allow innovators to capture the profits from their creations. In a paper published with colleagues from universities in Germany and India, we examined how this also makes it more difficult for new and more sustainable technologies to be developed and adopted. That explains why now there are other approaches being utilized to move key sectors to more sustainable systems and end this status quo.
Electric car manufacturer Tesla, has been doing that. Tesla CEO Elon Musk “shocked” the world in 2014 when he announced that his company was joining the open source movement and handing out its patents free of charge. It is important to understand the rationale here. Why would a company that had worked so desperately to produce and protect its technology from its global car manufacturer competitors suddenly give its technology away free of charge?
Tesla initially developed How To Get A Patent On An Idea its technology. However, Tesla’s concern that it will be overwhelmed once established car makers ramped up their creation of electric cars never arrived at pass. Instead, it saw the electric car market stagnate at lower than 1% of total vehicle sales. So Tesla changed its strategy from seeking to prevent others from building electric cars to trying to encourage them into the market.
Part of the reasoning here is when more electric cars are built, then more battery recharging stations is going to be built too. This would make electric cars be a little more visible, as well as a more conventional choice. Tesla believes that an open intellectual property strategy can strengthen instead of diminish its position because they build how big the electrical car market, and for that reason, build its very own share of the total automotive market.
This type of careful handling of intellectual property at company level, backed up by policy-level awareness, could be a powerful method to support the same forms 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. The Mom Inventors is fixed by water scarcity, pollutants, extreme environmental events like flooding and expenses 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 to address malnutrition in poor countries.
For these industries to navigate a path around these problems, new knowledge as well as the innovations that follow is going to be essential. As well as in knowledge economies, intellectual property can either be an enabler or even an inhibitor.
In the event the ownership of intellectual property is fragmented in an industry, it may decrease technology innovation and uptake, like in 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 guard and prolong lifecycles. This transformation may see knowledge sharing that leads to accelerated innovation cycles and a wksgqs rapid uptake of sustainable alternatives within a sector: exactly what Tesla was dreaming about in electric vehicles.
This approach to intellectual property, so-called “open IP”, is well advanced and mature within the software industry and healthcare. It offers given access to life-saving medicines to millions of people, specifically in Patent Attorney through patent pools, like the Medicine Patent Pool. This type of project relies on multinational pharmaceutical companies sharing their intellectual property, but small companies could also play a strategic roles in creating these new, more sustainable systems, and it’s not all about open IP.