Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Patent Lens

Around the time I was experiencing the patent system firsthand, I coincidentally had lunch with Richard Jefferson of Cambia. Cambia is a not-for-profit organisation that is moving some of their operations from Canberra up to Brisbane to collaborate with QUT.

Richard was interviewed on ABC Catalyst where he talks about:

  • applying open source s/w development ideas to life sciences

  • more efficient social change through scientific collaboration and transparency

  • the BIOS initiative that provides tools for genetic scientists (at no financial cost) with the aim to help local people solve their own problems rather than just relying on aid

One of the things Cambia does is the Patent Lens, a free patent search engine. From their site:
We created the Patent Lens to create transparency in the patent system, and to serve the public worldwide as a platform resource to explore, understand and improve its impact on society.

The effects of the patent system as it works now may not match the original intent to benefit society.

The patent system was created to advance societal benefit by encouraging public disclosure of inventions and clear definition of each invention, in exchange for a strictly limited monopoly. The intent is that the invention may be used wherever and whenever the patent monopoly is not in force.

The trouble is that unless information is readily available about whose patents are in force over what technology where, the system doesn't work well.

People may unwittingly infringe patents they don't know about, avoid areas of innovation in which they are entitled to be creative, or make poor investments based on incomplete information about which rights are granted and who holds these rights.

The Patent Lens informatics tools can assist the user to determine the boundaries of intellectual property constraints on deliverable innovations, and usable building blocks for future innovations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Myth that Patents are a Monopoly

A patent gives the holder the right to exclude others from making, using or selling the invention. 35 USC 154. It does not give the holder the right to make, use or sell their invention. A monopoly is an exclusive right to a market, such as an electric utility company. An electric utility company has the exclusive right to sell electricity in a certain territory. Since a patent does not even given the holder the right to sell their invention, let alone an exclusive right to a market, it is clearly not a monopoly.

When a person describes a patent as a monopoly to be consistent they should also state that they have a monopoly over their car or over their house. In fact, they have more rights in their car and house than a patent gives the inventor over their invention, since you have a right to use and sell your car or house. A patent does not give these rights to an inventor over his invention. All invention are built upon existing elements (conservation of matter) and if the elements that the invention uses are patented, then the inventor will not have the right to sell their invention without a license.

Some economists argue that a patent is designed to give the holder monopoly power. Those economists who are consistent also state that all property rights give some monopoly power. The property rights are monopolies thesis shows how confused economic thought is on this subject. The only logically consistent definition of a monopoly is an exclusive right to a market.

People who suggest a patent is a monopoly are not being intellectually honest and perpetuating a myth to advance a political agenda.

For more information on patents and innovation see www.hallingblog.com.