One of these brilliant lies in how the world manages the creation and ownership of inventions and concepts. A protectionist approach to intellectual property is made to protect and prolong the lifecycle of existing technologies, and allow Patent A Product 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 tougher for new and much 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, continues to be doing that. Tesla CEO Elon Musk “shocked” the planet in 2014 as he announced that his company was joining the open source movement and handing out its patents for free. It is important to be aware of the rationale here. Why would an organization which had worked so desperately to produce 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 guard its technology. However, Tesla’s concern that it will be overwhelmed once established car makers ramped up their manufacture of electric cars never got to pass. Instead, it saw the electric car market stagnate at under 1% of total vehicle sales. So Tesla changed its strategy from seeking to prevent others from building electric cars to seeking to encourage them into the market.
Area of the reasoning here is when more electric cars are built, then more battery recharging stations is going to be built too. This might make electric cars be a little more visible, as well as a more conventional choice. Tesla believes that the open intellectual property strategy can strengthen instead of diminish its position by building the size of the electrical car market, and for that reason, build its very own share of the total automotive market.
This kind of careful handling of intellectual property at company level, supported by policy-level awareness, can be a powerful approach to support the same forms of transitions to more sustainable technologies in other industries too.
Energy supply faces a multitude of difficulties: the depletion of natural resources; air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions; nuclear risks; and security of supply. The water supply sector is fixed by water scarcity, pollutants, extreme environmental events including 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 such industries to navigate a path around these problems, new knowledge and the Inventhelp Invention Service that follow will be essential. And in knowledge economies, intellectual property can either be an enabler or even an inhibitor.
In the event the ownership of intellectual property is fragmented inside an industry, it may slow down technology innovation and uptake, like inside the electronics industry where multiple players own complementary patents. However, firms can instead open their innovation processes and depart from jealously guarded, internal cultures, where intellectual property is rtaotl to protect and prolong lifecycles. This transformation may see knowledge sharing that leads to accelerated How To Invent A Product and a more rapid uptake of sustainable alternatives within a sector: just what Tesla was hoping for in electric vehicles.
This method to intellectual property, so-called “open IP”, is well advanced and mature in the software industry and healthcare. It has given use of life-saving medicines to millions of people, specifically in developing countries through patent pools, such as the Medicine Patent Pool. This sort of project relies upon 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.