F.A.Q.'s

1.What is the G.I.C. initiative? The Global Innovation Commons fills three explicit roles. First, it puts into easy access, information that belongs to the public. A patent is a market right granted to a person claiming to be an inventor which removes that invention or innovation from public use for a limited period of time. In short, a patent represents a contract between the public and an inventor/innovator. The contract asks the public to give up market freedom to provide an incentive to an inventor or innovator to advance the public’s knowledge. If the pubic gives up this freedom and the inventor/innovator fails to vigorously advance the invention for the public market, the contract is violated. If the inventor/innovator does not file for protection in markets he or she deems “undesirable”, these markets are free to benefit from the knowledge without harming this neglect. The information must be shared as this is the basis for an inventor/innovator receiving a market right. Second, the G.I.C. provides a clear mechanism to hold inventor/innovator statements accountable for the truth in what is claimed in the market. Governments often are forced to overpay for “proprietary solutions” which are actually found fully in the open source. Vital medicines are withheld from countries while pharmaceuticals claim to have patents that have never been filed in the restricted country. Power systems and food technologies are withheld from communities where no protection exists. U.S. and European companies – licensing or acquiring patents from national labs and universities – file international defensive patents to try to accommodate the fact that most core “inventions” from these institutions have not been protected throughout the world. As a result, illegal patent filings support unethical business assertions leading to perpetuation of oppression and access asymmetries around the world. Finally, the G.I.C. provides an immediate economic and community development engine where students can learn about innovations, entrepreneurs can benefit from the largest repository of targeted innovation information in the world’s history, and buyers can finally have the ability to sort through marketing hype to insure that consumers, at every level from the individual to the sovereign do not suffer from extortion based on false claims of proprietary rights. The G.I.C. allows for the immediate “generic” everything industry like the generic drug companies developed in medicines over 50 years ago.

2.What type of documents are in the G.I.C.? The Global Innovation Commons is compromised of Global Innovation Commons Challenges, ideas, reference materials, commons innovations, lesson plans, experiments and results, methodologies, trade credit offsets and open source patents indexed by country. Click on the 'Discover' Page to learn more.

3.What do the different colors (grey, yellow and green) mean? The country color coding is a way to identify the countries with the largest opportunity. Historically, these countries have been classified as “Least Developed” but, because of this misnomer, companies have overlooked them as markets. This oversight means that, enabled with the Global Innovation Commons, the countries in green represent the greatest potential to create and host Open Source Innovation businesses. The countries in yellow are those with intermediate levels of opportunity to support Open Source Innovation businesses. Finally, the countries in gray are the most restricted from receiving immediate, direct economic potential from the Global Innovation Commons as they still maintain the most restrictive proprietary, enclosure-based intellectual property regimes.

4.What does the string of letters and numbers at the end of the document title mean? It is the unique number assigned to a patent application when it issues as a patent. The alpha-numeric code identifies a federal patent.

5. I found an innovation that interests me. What now? After carefully reviewing the disclosure and embodiments, you may wish to replicate the process to confirm that the description is sufficient to use the technology. If so, carefully review the market coverage which you can use for supplying, manufacturing, distributing and selling to make sure you honor patent protection where it exists. Once you have established your intentions, we would encourage you reaching out the inventor and inviting them to participate with you. Be prepared for an engagement which may be adverse at first as most inventors are unaware of the patent law and the restrictions of their rights. If you need help in dealing with these conversations, M•CAM has people who can help you with this conversation. Our goal is to align everyone’s interest but do so with cooperation, not proprietary restriction. And, as the license states, make sure you share your use and experience with others. Remember, that is a condition of use in the license.

6.As a user of the G.I.C. am I allowed to commercialize any of the ideas provided in the system? Absolutely. Anything in the G.I.C. is available for commercialization provided that you confirm that the markets into which you plan to manufacture, distribute or sell are not restricted by the patent information you are using. We recommend that attribution and invitation is extended to inventors to join initiatives because frequently patents are incomplete in terms of optimizing solutions. However, this engagement must be done under open source conditions that are shared with all.

7. Is there any provision for the inventors of the idea to get their ideas protected in the future in countries where it has not been protected yet? If yes will the idea be no longer available freely in that country to be put to use? An inventor has one year to file for protection in any and all markets in which they seek protection. After that year is past, no one, ever is allowed to file a patent on the same thing. Patent offices frequently grant patents in error which cover material that is previously patented however these errors, when identified, can be corrected. Additionally, there is a prior use restriction that says that a patent cannot be filed on a product that has been used in commercial endeavors prior to the filing of the patent. Therefore, any use, anywhere can serve to invalidate future patent activities.

8. How do I find people in the commons with similar interests?  Click on the "Connect" section.  This will help you find groups and individuals working on all kinds of projects.  Also, if you click on the 'Discover' section, you will find interesting challenges and connect to like minded commoners that way.

9. I am a development worker working for an NGO abroad. I don’t have any technical expertise, however I know what the local community needs. How can the commons help/benefit me? How can I contribute to the commons?  Click on the 'Create' tab and create a "GIC Challenge."  Here commoners can post projects and state intentions.  It may be surprising to some, but many commoners are simply looking to know what community needs are.  Once you post a challenge, you can form groups of like minded commoners or reach out through social networks to bring values together to accomplish your goals.  

10. Where can I find funding or capital to build an innovation? Funding and capital are not where you start building innovation. Deploying innovation first involves making sure that your solution and your associated solution providers can fulfill the expectations that your actions will create in the community you serve. If you haven’t confirmed these points, seeking funding is unethical as you will likely fail to deliver on commitments made to capital sources. Your first line of funding is customers. If you haven’t considered customers, you should not be in business. Consider your suppliers, your partners in production and distribution and your customer of user. In many instances you will have creativity and energy in abundance but little else. The other members of the ecosystem of your innovation have supplies, capacity, distribution and other things in abundance. You need to make sure that you know your real monetary costs and returns and balance these against a complete assessment of all other assets your ecosystem can deploy. Assuming that there is a capital need, if you are in a “Green” or “Yellow” country, it is highly probable that your country has Trade Credit Offsets which can link technology transfer and reliable contracts with global partners to cash-flow rather than investment. This is the best form of capital if direct customer access is not immediately identified. If this pathway is not available, we always recommend selling future pricing discounts for pre-orders so that your funding is drawn from early market acceptance rather than receiving funds and hoping that you find a customer. If credit or equity investment is still required, make sure that you clearly articulate the steps you’ve taken to explore the preceding processes. In our deployment association with infoDev at the World Bank and IFC, we strongly recommend that you access infoDev resources first. M•CAM is delighted to help at any point in the process.

11. Is the Global Innovation Commons seeking partners? No. The G.I.C. seeks nothing. However, we invite everyone who shares a commitment to build robust, innovative companies. While we are not opposed to patents and enclosure property rights per se, we are profoundly opposed to the misuse of systems that prevent the public from gaining benefit for market aberrations which restrict the advancement of products vital to human existence. Why we welcome partners, we are deeply committed to insuring that any partner is also a user so that the benefit of the Commons has its maximum impact.

Thoughts On Technology Transfer and Commercialization Dr. David Martin, Executive Chairman of M-CAM, Responds to TTF Questions

1. How would you define or characterize technology transfer? Ideally, technology transfer is the complete, enabling disclosure of an advancement in science and technology sufficient for its unfettered use and improvement. Such use should meet objectives which balance education and learning; and, enterprise creation or advancement; also serving as the basis for additional creative work and advancement. The most successful evidence of technology transfer in modern times would likely be the U.S. and European educational institutions who have engaged citizens of the world to be trained with, and expand upon, research endeavors in institutions of higher learning. Recently, Chinese and Indian institutions have innovated on these model programs and are making considerable contributions. While undesirable in its underlying impetus, the technology reparations from the German Industrial and State complex at the end of the Second World War serve as the greatest single technology transfer moment of the last century benefiting industries including materials science, aerospace, digital communications and data storage, medicine, chemicals, and structural engineering and design to name a few.

2. Who are the stakeholders in tech transfer generally? Which of these stakeholders play an active role in commercialization? Which currently do not but should? Ironically, most “card-carrying” technology transfer professionals have little to no experience in creating invention or innovation; no experience with genuine first-hand enterprise creation and management; and, gross deficiencies in understanding the balance of capital investment versus commercial cash flow. Most current stakeholders are surrogates or brokers for researchers paired with quasi-bureaucratic trustees of technology. On occasions, persons involved in the venture capital business (many times having manifest a single success) take an active role in technology transfer. Absent from most technology transfer programs are people who understand, from serial experience, the process of obtaining and retaining customers. Additionally, non-equity capital providers (banks, factoring entities, and mile-stone based licensors) are infrequent in most systems and their deficit leads to significant institutional disappointment based on too narrow sets of expectations for both process and returns. Vital to successful technology transfer is the professional competency which is more gained from merger and acquisition activity rather than venture capital and start up financing. One could imagine those who are qualified at curricular development for disciplines like systems engineering playing a vital role. Successful technology transfer must promote the receiver’s rationale for engagement as much or more than focus on the artifact being transferred.

3. What are the special technology transfer considerations by industry? (e.g., health, agriculture and food, information technology, alternative energy) Health, agriculture, water and food security technology transfer require a depth of moral engagement frequently considered (with regret) post facto. There is a growing awareness in these fields, and in some conversations about environmental technologies, that the exclusionary practices arising from exclusive licenses and restrictive intellectual property paradigms, jeopardize the health and life of the planet and its inhabitants. Therefore, considerations beyond short-term monopolistic benefit are becoming increasingly important when considering the nature and mode of technology transfer in these areas. In all industries, the plethora of abandoned and expired patents in public domain, make experience in the past 25 years increasingly irrelevant as most innovations now must incorporate an element of “innovation recycling” in which latent and public domain components must be included and acknowledged in the pursuit of the alleged “new”. The reckless use of intellectual property in the fields of information technology has lead to what some refer to as “chilling effects” on innovation while the European Patent Office executives have recently expropriated the term “Global Warming of Patents” signifying the overwhelming volume of indistinguishable proprietary claims which make transfer dubious at best. The point of this problem is that all too often, the actual identity of the party or parties qualified to represent a transferable interest is impossible to establish. As a result, in the above referenced fields, technology transfer focused on education and capacity building is far more attainable and defensible than the attempt to perpetuate monopoly business models.

4. What are the unique considerations that come into play when looking at issues of South-South technology transfer? Most industrial property models are precisely that – property models. The notion of alienable property at all – particularly when referring to creative endeavors – is not a uniform construct in all communities. Its absence is poignant in a number of Southern communities making the Northern models of exclusionary property right exchange dubious at best. Temporal assumptions – the notion that there is a single nexus in time where creation occurred – are cultural artifacts of the North. Discontinuous creative emergence and Heritable Knowledge and its contextual adaptation is warmly embraced by many cultures (including Northern – Asian cultures) and stand in diametric opposition with the industrial property mandate for a defined, verifiable creator at a defined moment. More profound is the recognition that the U.S. and European model (largely adapted by Japan and Singapore) requires technology transfer to be associated with a monetary value exchange in most instances. The over-generalized Northern obsession with having everything denominated in a monetary exchange conflicts with the more complex nature of recognized value exchange seen in other cultures. I reflect on the National Innovation Foundation celebration in India where innovators received a wreath of flowers from the President of the country – something far more valuable than a few thousand rupees would ever be. Most industrial property advocates would see this as a quaint antiquarian legacy and fail to understand that the monotony of currency reductionism actually leads to vast failures in the promoted system. We’d all do better in adding to our palate of acceptable consideration rather than believing and promoting a currency common utility metric.

5. What approaches might improve technology flows between developed countries and emerging markets? First, getting rid of the concept of “developed countries” and “emerging markets” will improve the flow. Implicit in this lexical colonialism is that engagement in the consumer process is a surrogate for some linear scale of development. For technology transfer to occur, as I’ve previously stated, as much emphasis and respect must be placed on the recipient as on the artifact being transferred. We need to see that the recipient has an established need in a defined context and we need to understand that that need and context is appropriately empowered to engage with the artifact. At the same time, we need to have the holder of the artifact adequately informed to engage in a culturally relevant context. We can learn from GE’s work with trade credit offsets in which it experimented with using education, training, and explicit innovation licensing, as a means to build prospective engagement in counter-party countries with whom it was doing business. While nascent, this model, taken to scale, could have profound implications on the facilitation of technology transfer at a more reproducible scale.. I would recall my earlier comments on “innovation recycling” here as well. In the late 90’s rush to create consolidated, large corporations, acquisitions were usually justified around a few notable technologies or products in the possession of the acquired company. Some companies stated publicly, that if a business unit failed to generate at least $250 million in revenue, that unit would be abandoned or sold! How many countries would view an enterprise of half that value as the greatest economic engine in their economy? The fact is that a vast wasteland of “widow” and “orphan” enterprises has been created in the consolidation fervor and these could be re-birthed to the benefit of many countries and communities throughout the world.

6. Has the US model been successfully replicated elsewhere? Can it be? More importantly, should it be? What other models exist and what are their strengths, weaknesses, adaptability and implementability? From the late 1970’s to the 2001, the U.S. model of technology transfer through the education of students from around the world was an unprecedented success. As I indicated above, I believe that China and India (and selected schools in New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Iran) are starting to adapt this model with considerable success. Like the U.S. model where monetization of this activity represented less than 5% of the funded efforts, the belief that this would be the grist for the economic mill remains a myth. Additionally, what is often mislabeled success in the U.S. and parts of Europe has masked the other environmental conditions which contributed to the alleged success. The majority of successful businesses arising from technology transfer were, in fact, merely transitional enterprises grooming an opportunity for ultimate acquisition by larger multi-national corporations (MNC). While many fanaticize (at great peril) about the creation of an equity market like Silicon Valley, Research Triangle Park, the technology corridor in Boston, these efforts have been the sirens which have lured billions of public dollars into ruin. Exits from transferred technology were not IPOs in most instances. With few exceptions, the winners were the venture capital intermediaries and the large acquiring companies. The U.S. benefited from a post-World War II funding and procurement boom unlike anything seen before in modern times. To replicate this preferential national procurement would violate WTO subsidy rules. To replicate the excessive federal procurement which funded both the technology creation and its commercialization requires conditions that have not been seen before and may not precisely replicate again. Germany in the 1930’s was an example of this same fervor and it did not serve as a resilient model. Emerging with the Creative Commons efforts, in the arena of copyright, a number of new, collaborative models are emerging which will be interesting to study. I believe that the trade credit offset models bear broader testing and assessment. Our own work in Heritable Innovation Commons launching in the Pacific, South America and in a number of other countries will require critical review. Re-opening the U.S. borders to students and scientists – many of whom felt unwelcome explicitly or implicitly post 2001 – would be a great way for the U.S. to contribute again.

7. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the US technology commercialization model in the US context? What are the implications for emerging markets? The simple, overlooked fact is that the U.S. technology commercialization model is directly derived from and dependent on preferential domestic consumption. It is NOT generalizable for a number of reasons. First, our public expenditure on defense and health care – the two largest components of the federal budget – are what drives both the funding of science and the procurement from transferred technologies. Without that condition met, no application of the model can replicate the results. Tragically, having built our economic systems on preferential procurement, we codified prohibitions thereto in WTO and our misnamed “Free Trade Agreement” legislation. If other countries are going to experience organic enterprise growth, they must be free to pay a premium for the creative productivity of their people. Without this excessive premium reward for endogenous innovation, capacity building will perpetually remain inadequate. Finally, the failure of the U.S. technology transfer systems has been the wholesale absence of commercial relevance in the entire innovation process. Creating artifacts of innovation in our Federal labs and Universities and hoping the right counterparty will discover them as been an unmitigated failure. Respectful engagement of the ultimate recipient target is a precondition that has been unmet and remains absent from the purveyors of the U.S. legacy. Thankfully, the present global market contraction has deflated the enthusiasm of the belief that the U.S. economic model was unassailable. As a result, we can learn from our phenomenal education successes, we can learn from our isolated cases of sustainable success and, simultaneously, we can review lessons learned from our missteps so that the world can emerge with a more respectful model in which both the creator and consumer of innovation are aligned in interest and benefit.