Tag Archives: patents

The Business of Invention

By separating invention from manufacture we can create a strong “capital market for inventions”, says former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold*, and this will bring about greater creativity and rewards for all concerned.

Myhrvold is currently the CEO and cofounder of Intellectual Ventures (a company he freely admits as being “reviled as a patent troll”) and believes that a liquid market for ideas will solve many of the problems that have long plagued inventors and consumers.

Software owes its ascent largely to two crucial developments. First, software vendors gradually persuaded software users—through both education and lawsuits—to respect intellectual property rights and pay for something that they might otherwise simply copy. Then vendors liberated software from hardware by overcoming system incompatibilities and developing solutions that could work on many different brands of computer. When the PC revolution hit, software became an industry in its own right.

I believe that invention is set to become the next software: a high-value asset that will serve as the foundation for new business models, liquid markets, and investment strategies. The surprising success Intellectual Ventures has had over the past 10 years convinces me that, like software, the business of invention would function better if it were separated from manufacturing and developed on its own by a strong capital market that funded and monetized inventions.

To simplify the issue slightly, I feel that the end-product is desirable (an invention market), but the suggested route is less so (separation, ‘education’, lawsuits).

via @Ando_F

*Yes, the Nathan Myhrvold of that cookbook.

Licensing and Patents for Green Technology and Drugs

The Seed Magazine ‘panel’ (who?) was asked How can intellectual property be adapted to spread green tech?

Their short answer starts by looking at drug licensing (the last sentence is quite shocking):

By World Trade Organization law, if a patented drug can improve public health in a developing country, it’s available for compulsory licensing. That means that developing countries can make generics of the drug while paying a small royalty instead of the full fee to the patent-holder—a practice that makes patent-holding companies deeply uncomfortable. To date, the only drugs so licensed have been antiretrovirals to fight AIDS in Africa.

The panel then go on to look at the possibility of, and issues with, extending this form of licensing to also cover ‘green tech’:

Strong patent laws have significant benefits. Should companies lose trust in patents—should they fear that their ideas will no longer be financially respected as theirs—they have an incentive to make the ideas corporate secrets instead of publicly available patents. The European Patent Office foresees the burgeoning of such legally protected secrets should patents be rendered less binding.

Making technology patentable and thus profitable has indeed been a good way to encourage companies to invest in ideas that serve the public good. However, when billions in the developing world who could benefit from these ideas cannot afford the current system, we need to consider how it can evolve.