How can IP help spread green technology?

July 31st, 2009 by Kaitlin Thaney

A recent feature in SEED Magazine asks the question: How can intellectual property – and more specifically the current patent system – spread green technology? The article, “Who Owns Green Tech?” features replies from five leading thinkers on the matter. Our own John Wilbanks was one of those panelists.

In his response, Wilbanks, VP of Science at Creative Commons, challenges the public to not view this conversation of innovation as a black and white situation, but to make room for new forms of innovation in the discussion (ie., user-driven innovation, open innovation). He also encourages conversations on how patents get licensed and used, and how standards-based approaches may allow for more open innovation.

“We can find a way to balance the incentives of corporate innovators while making sure the innovators in the developing world have the means to solve their own problems. We’ve seen similar solutions take root in cultural commerce with extraordinary results, from the existence of Wikipedia to Nine Inch Nails making millions of dollars on songs they also gave away on the internet for free,” Wilbanks said. “We can do this for patents, and we can do this for sustainability technology. But it can’t be done if the rhetoric around the conversation is consistently fueled by maximalism and confrontation.”

This idea is at the core of the GreenXchange project, a venture by Creative Commons, Nike and Best Buy to create a marketplace for invention. For more information about the project, visit the GreenXchange project page.

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