• An anti-patent-abuse appropriate technology political bloc?

    by  • July 23, 2008 • The Global Picture • 5 Comments

    As I look at all these rocket scientists struggling to navigate the horrific waters of patent law and worst practices, I’m wondering… why has the Sacred Oath gone out of fashion?

    Like, really, what this comes down to is three principles which really ought to be sworn in blood by anybody doing this kind of work.

    1> I will not permit any human being to be deprived of live-giving technology by the profit motive.

    2> Any works that I patent I will make available to others who are engaged in humanitarian activity for free, except where this would breach other contractual responsibilities.

    3> I will not use patent law to slow the pace of innovation or service delivery to the needy under any circumstances.

    I think that if I could get everybody I’m doing business with to swear some version of these oaths in a serious fashion, my life would be enormously easier. I think I know a lot of other people who feel the same way.

    Maybe this needs to be part of the Global Swadeshi movement, or its own thing, a sort of voluntary code of ethics to guide us where the horrific murk of international law leaves us with little support.

    Furthermore, I think that if we got a few hundred people behind this, as a bloc, we could shame companies who were violating fair practices with patent and copyright in the developing world, at least in the burgeoning appropriate infrastructure for the poorest area. The reason we cannot do this with open publishing alone is that things which have not been explicitly published may well become vulnerable to patents – a small innovation becomes patented, and now nobody else in the field can use it without exposing themselves to patent liability.

    A large group of allied appropriate technology groups with a common stance on that kind of behavior could probably public-relations-bomb any company trying to leech from the open pool in this way as a way of ensuring that appropriate technology remains Free As In Speech or at least is licensed irrevocably as Free As In Beer for non-profits and small, local commercial enterprises.

    The last thing that we want is a patent bloodbath at the bottom of the pyramid: people are going to die if that happens. Possibly hundreds of thousands to tens of millions, given a few years. We need to roundly nip this in the bud, keep the patent trolls off our back, and more importantly, the backs of the poor.

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    5 Responses to An anti-patent-abuse appropriate technology political bloc?

    1. Asoka
      July 23, 2008 at 5:09 am

      Yes, in the area of copyright there is a movement in the USA to legally subvert the provision of the law which automatically grants full copyright upon creation of a work, a provision which makes it difficult to freely share ideas.

      So there is http://creativecommons.org which allows creators to share their creative work by relicensing to a some rights reserved instead of all rights reserved. This promotes sharing and diffusion of ideas. Check it out!

    2. July 23, 2008 at 5:11 am

      Creative Commons is very cool, but it only protects items which are covered by copyright, there’s nothing equivalent for patent. Inventions, machines and devices are typically protected by patents rather than by copyrights, and that’s a whole different branch of law.

      It’s harder territory…


    3. July 23, 2008 at 1:34 pm

      Are you thinking of something like the Open Invention Network?

      They’ve got IBM and Google on board, amongst others.

    4. July 23, 2008 at 1:37 pm

      Yes, OIN is much closer to the general ballpark.

    5. July 23, 2008 at 2:14 pm

      I don’t really know your background, but ever followed the “debacle” around GPLv3?

      GPLv3 is intended as some kind of protection against patents-litigation I believe.

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