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The Global Innovations Commons – in the Nick of Time?

Hat tip to On the Commons – a good news story about our potential to tech our way out of the crisis…

Based on an article in the Der Spiegal.

The Global Innovation Commons is a massive interactive archive of energy-saving technologies whose patents have expired, been abandoned or simply have no protection. The idea is to let entrepreneurs and national governments query the database on a country-by-country basis to identify helpful technologies that are in the public domain. Once identified, these technologies for energy, water and agriculture are prime candidates for being developed at lower costs than patented technologies.

The World Bank is a partner on this project, along with the International Finance Corporation’s infoDev unit. The World Bank has estimated that the technologies in the GIC database could save more than $2 trillion in potential license fees. The Global Innovation Commons essentially seeks to bring the advantages of the open-source software development model — open participation, faster innovation, greater reliability, cheaper costs — to technologies that are claimed to be patented.

Here’s how the Global Information Commons describes the role of patents in impeding innovation — and how the new database helps establish a new open-innovation commons:

For the past 30 years, patents have been abused. Rather than serving the public’s expansion of knowledge, they’ve been used as business and legal weapons. Over 50,000,000 patents covering everything you do have served to keep you from benefiting in many aspects of your life. Many life-saving treatments have been kept from the market because they threaten established business interests. The world’s ecosystem has been severely damaged because efficiencies have been kept from entering the market.

In the face of all this, however, there is the good news: The thirty-year “cold war” of innovation is over. Today, you now have access to it all. In the Global Innovation Commons, we have assembled hundreds of thousands of innovations – most in the form of patents – which are either expired, no-longer maintained (meaning that the fees to keep the patents in force have lapsed), disallowed, or unprotected in most, if not all, relevant markets. This means that, as of right now, you can take a step into a world full of possibilities, not roadblocks. You want clean water for China or Sudan – it’s in here. You want carbon-free energy – it’s in here. You want food production for Asia or South America – it’s in here. (Link to article)

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