The End Of Patents: Why Patents Stand In The Way Of Collaboration
The technological advances that we are making right now are going at a neck-braking speed. Major issues are on the agenda that need to be resolved, and quickly. The way to move forward in this common goal is collaboration, but what seems to be holding us back is our tendency to want to protect what is ours from the use by others.
When GastónAcurio, a master chef and self-styled world food ambassador to the Peruvian cuisine, was asked by Andrés Oppenheimer in his latest book Crear o Morir!, why he started to work together with other Peruvian master chefs in sharing ideas and recipes, his answer was quite simple: “If you take your recipe to your grave, you did not exist”. To Gastón and the other chefs, it is all about the greater good of putting the Peruvian cuisine on the world food map. This all might sound idealistic and perhaps not fit for the competitive corporate world where shareholder value is king, but Gastón together with his wife, Astrid, have build a multinational from it with 40 restaurants on 3 different continents, with annual sales exceeding 100 million dollar.
Another example is Chris Anderson, Co-Founder of 3D Robotics. Chris says “…3D Robotics patents nothing; it collaborates on everything, mainly through the DIY-drones community…”. Chris met his Co-Founder, Jordi Muñoz, through his in own community DIYdrones.com. Jordi made his first drone at age of 20 splicing Nintendo Wii wires with a mini copter. This formed the bases for Chris and Jordi to start 3D Robotics together. Instead of building legal walls around their intellectual property, they kept on sharing it with others in their online community. This helped advance the drone technology significantly. Only their brand, 3D Robotics has legal protection. Instead of fighting of copycats, they are now actually drawn to the community.
To me, trained as a international tax lawyer, this all sounded very counter intuitive. Why would you give up your right to protect what adds most value to your business? Then I read why Tesla Motors, decided to ‘give up’ their existing patents and turned their intellectual property open source. In a blog, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, summarized it as follows: “…Technology leadership is not defined by patents, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers…” So it’s about the people.
The success of a company (or movement for that matter) is measured by the ability to attract and retain talented people and not by the ability to enforce its intellectual property in a legal battle. The clear boundaries between industries, academic fields are disappearing because of the development of technology and their increasing interdependence. Therefore collaboration will be leading and there will no longer be room for fending of your own knowledge. Knowledge which isn’t shared is basically dead.
About Author: Gideon Blaauw, Co-Founder of Stockata (www.stockata.com), a Private Shares Platform focusing on bringing together entrepreneurs and investors. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @blueoceanmen