One of these lies in the way the world manages the creation and ownership of inventions and ideas. A protectionist approach to intellectual property was created to protect and prolong the lifecycle of existing technologies, and enable 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 harder for new and much more sustainable technologies to be developed and adopted. That explains why nowadays there are 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 exactly that. Tesla CEO Elon Musk “shocked” the entire world in 2014 when 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 a business which had worked so difficult to build up and protect its technology from its global car manufacturer competitors suddenly give its technology away free of charge?
Tesla initially developed Patent Helper its technology. However, Tesla’s concern that it might be overwhelmed once established car makers ramped up their creation of electric cars never came to pass. Instead, it saw the electrical 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 seeking to encourage them in to the market.
Part of the reasoning here is when more electric cars are designed, then more battery recharging stations will be built too. This would make electric cars become more visible, as well as a more conventional choice. Tesla believes that the open intellectual property strategy can strengthen rather than diminish its position by building how big the electric car market, and for that reason, build their own share from the total automotive market.
This sort of careful handling of intellectual property at company level, maintained by policy-level awareness, could be a powerful way to support the same types 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 Invention Ideas Website is fixed by water scarcity, pollutants, extreme environmental events such as flooding and expenses related to supplying water to communities in poor countries and remote communities. The agri-food sector, meanwhile, is under pressure to sustainably produce more food and also to address malnutrition in poor countries.
For these industries to navigate a path around these complications, new knowledge and the innovations that follow will likely be essential. And then in knowledge economies, intellectual property either can be an enabler or perhaps an inhibitor.
If the ownership of intellectual property is fragmented inside an industry, it could decrease technology innovation and uptake, like inside the electronics industry where multiple players own complementary patents. However, firms can instead open up their innovation processes and depart from jealously guarded, internal cultures, where intellectual property is used to guard and prolong lifecycles. This change may see knowledge sharing which leads to accelerated innovation cycles as well as a wksgqs rapid uptake of sustainable alternatives throughout a sector: exactly what Tesla was hoping for in electric vehicles.
This method to intellectual property, so-called “open IP”, is well advanced and mature within the software industry and healthcare. It provides given access to life-saving medicines to huge numbers of people, particularly in Inventhelp Office through patent pools, such as the Medicine Patent Pool. This sort 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.