One of these lies in how the world manages the creation and ownership of inventions and ideas. A protectionist approach to Patent A Product is made to protect and prolong the lifecycle of existing technologies, and allow 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 more difficult for new and more sustainable technologies to be developed and adopted. That explains why now there are 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 planet in 2014 when he announced that his company was joining the open source movement and giving away its patents free of charge. It is important to understand the rationale here. Why would a company that had worked so hard to build up and protect its technology from its global car manufacturer competitors suddenly give its technology away at no cost?
Tesla initially designed a patent portfolio to safeguard its technology. However, Tesla’s concern that it would be overwhelmed once established car makers ramped up their manufacture of electric cars never got to pass. Instead, it saw the electrical car market stagnate at less than 1% of total vehicle sales. So Tesla changed its strategy from trying to prevent others from building electric cars to attempting to encourage them to the market.
Part of the reasoning here is that if more electric cars are built, then more battery recharging stations is going to be built too. This would make electric cars become a little more visible, as well as a more conventional choice. Tesla believes that an open intellectual property strategy can strengthen as opposed to diminish its position by building how big the electrical car market, and for that reason, build its own share of the total automotive market.
This kind of careful handling of Inventhelp Inventions at company level, backed up by policy-level awareness, can become 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. The water supply sector is restricted by water scarcity, pollutants, extreme environmental events such as 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 as well as address malnutrition in poor countries.
For these industries to navigate a path around these problems, new knowledge and the innovations that follow will be essential. As well as in knowledge economies, intellectual property can either be an enabler or an inhibitor.
When the ownership of intellectual property is fragmented inside an industry, it can slow down technology innovation and uptake, like inside the electronics industry where multiple players own complementary patents. However, firms can instead start their innovation processes and depart 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 within a sector: just what Tesla was longing for in electric vehicles.
This strategy to intellectual property, so-called “open IP”, is well advanced and mature inside the software industry and healthcare. It offers given usage of life-saving medicines to millions of people, particularly in developing countries through patent pools, such as the Medicine Patent Pool. This kind of project relies upon multinational pharmaceutical companies sharing their Inventhelp Patent Services, but small companies can also play a strategic roles in creating these new, more sustainable systems, and it’s not all about open IP.