Much has been written on Intellectual Property and old-fashioned ways of preserving and compensating it, or of protecting it in competitive markets through the use of patents, but the new dynamics of interconnectivity networks, parallel creativity and new innovative processes that require short-term, inexpensive answers, make it impossible to expect current systems of protection and patents to remain unchanged in the future, as they are processes, concepts and models which will soon become obsolete. I believe some European politicians should read up on certain references touching on this issue and realize you can’t stem the tide.
We need new models and must be creative in our quest for a solution… in my case, I don’t need a model to replace old ones, because I have become convinced that it is an open, collaborative market which decides who turns an idea into business or a service to society, and how much must be charged, if there is a price to be paid at all. Open source, open software and what Henry Chesbrogh from the Open Innovation center at Berkeley University has so correctly defined recently -in Barcelona last year and in Bilbao the previous- as the process of Open Innovation are in vogue, companies asking themselves how they can begin to apply these processes without losing competitiveness or profit.
Open source, open software, open innovation, collaborative processes that generate ideas and innovation, the wisdom of the crowds are all concepts that will govern and redefine the future of these other two concepts: Intellectual Property and patents.
In the case of Patents, there are many additional problems to be solved: the geographic locations in which we wish to act, different regulations and the control methods applied to comply with them, differences between countries where patents can be defended or not, the initial research process before submitting the documents that will allow an invention or process to be patented, the bureaucracy involved, and, finally the period we need to wait to obtain the patent and its cost, which, in general, is rarely less than 20,000 euros, after waiting at least three years in many cases, or even up to ten, not knowing if a patent will be granted at all. In the end, once you finally obtain the patent you have been waiting for, there are now various competitors on the market without a patent who already have the advantage over you, after you have invested incredible amounts of time and money, and are left wondering, “Why did I wait?”
It is interesting to see that in ideas4all, 75% of users submitting ideas, share them under a Creative Commons License, meaning their ideas are given freely to the world and they only wish to be recognized for their authorship, while only 25% wish to claim –should they be applicable in the future- Intellectual Property rights.
While reflecting on this subject, I remembered an article I read 14 years ago, by Esther Dyson, which I liked very much. It was polemic at the time, but today’s reality has proven her right: “Intellectual Value. A radical new way of looking at compensation for owners and creators in the Net-based economy.” published in Wired in 1995.
A visionary Esther Dyson was looking for an answer to her own question: What happens to Intellectual Property as we enter the Internet era?
1. That a new gravitational field is established, resulting from the transfer of information. We enter new economic environments, as different between each other as the earth and the moon –where a new collection of physical laws will define intellectual property and how new opportunities will be created, as well as who will benefit and who will lose.
2. Key to these new laws is the law declaring “content is free”. Not all content will be free, but the dynamics of the new economy will act as if it were. Intellectual property that can easily be copied will be copied. Copying it efficiently will be so easy that it will be freely distributed to attract attention and create a desire to use other services with added value that will be charged.
3. Players will have to consider charging for services and not for content: added value services such as filters, forums, evaluating and commenting others’ free content, personalized programming, consulting etc. Creatives and authors who assume they will not recover the costs of developing their content –as if it had no value- will be the winners over those who cannot figure out a way of covering such costs. To be leaders in terms of content, you must begin by giving it away. This “generosity” is not a moral decision, it is a business strategy.
Evolution of Patents granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, by USPTO: A decrease can be observed from 2000 to 2004 from available data. The same does not yet occur with software.
Other sources such as the World Patent Report Center admit certain deceleration in requests for patents in Europe and the United States.
“During 2000-2006 period, there has also been a significant increase in requests coming from Australia, China, India and ROK countries. Average annual growth in these countries was much higher than that observed in other countries in Europe and North America. Japan, United Kingdom and Sweden also grew very modestly in terms of all patents requested (less than 1% annually). This report did not specify the separation of patents and business processes.
Although the total number of patent requests has increased globally, the growth rate is below rates observed in other economic indicators such as Gross Domestic Product and trade”.
Esther Tyson also predicted that “From the business point of view –not to overstate it- intellectual property is dead. Long live intellectual process. Long live service; long live performance”.