Economic models based on exclusionary property rights are in their waning moments. With over 50 million patent documents in the world – the vast majority of them expired, abandoned, or useless defensive tools – the academic and econometric communities have been equally unable to substantiate a single empirical argument to maintain the current patent system. Thus, at last, the European Patent Office is publicly talking in terms of Global Patent Warming to describe a sense of crisis, and an urgent need for action. With the present global economic crisis upon us, this call invites society to invest wisely and decisively in sustainable and fair innovation models. This project aims at exactly that.
By revisiting the concept of the commons in more than theoretical terms, a constructive and workable solution is presented to promote innovation and ingenuity by simply asking public procurement to buy patent free. This might sound revolutionary, but the patent free model has actually been used in commercial contexts both in the US and Europe. For example, companies like IBM and ASEA used to publish innovation literature in markets they thought would benefit from not being patented at all. We also know the patent free success stories of the www and particularly free software. Can these examples be generalised to all fields of technology? I believe so.
The mechanism for understanding the common wealth is first to ask in public procurement whether the items, goods or services needed are available in the commons. Where and how the public procurement procedure can do this has already been shown in a Commission recommendation in the field of software. I believe it is possible to work out similar recommendations also in critical areas like environmentally acceptable energy, water management, vital medicines, agricultural technologies and so forth. Particularly, where the patent system has failed to stand up to societal scrutiny, we not only can use procurement wisely, but are morally obliged to at least look for patent free alternatives.
To show more than a model, I will publish patent information where a) unconsidered innovations would have limited or invalidated the grant; b) third party patents which cover substantially the same material; and, c) the constituents of a and b which are expired, abandoned or otherwise in the public domain and serve as the basis for a 'freedom to operate' position in the whole world. This information will highlight the gross inadequacies of the patent office examination processes and the need for public accountability of the same.
By demonstrating the ease with which this can be done* and showing that the private sector has already innovated beyond the imagined limits of the current paradigm, I intend to demonstrate that our public finance and social policy should acknowledge the countless forgotten contributions made by the many whose voices and intellects were never heard and, at the same time facilitate the much-needed debate on how to best construct innovation networks which will be more fruitful than the lottery-winnings model that has been tested and has now failed. My goal is to raise awareness to engage in a dialogue which will produce a viable scheme to align the creative impulse with human potential. Therefore I invite all readers to submit patents which are believed to foster uncertainty and risk rather than innovation and growth.
Erik Josefsson, European Parliamentary candidate 2009
*) the patent information is published with the kind help from M-CAM Inc.