IrvingWladawsky-Berger, who is Vice President for Technical Strategy and Innovation at IBM, calls for an overhaul of the way our nation views intellectual property. Instead of seeing it as walled-off property, we should treat it more like "innovation capital:"
Looking at IP as capital to be invested and put to work on behalf of many, instead of solely as property that benefits only one, is the kind of major paradigm change that opens the mind to new possibilities. As we know, an idea or invention can have many potential benefits beyond those originally imagined by its creator. In an increasingly collaborative, interconnected global economy, there is a compelling and growing societal interest in bringing new intellectual property to the marketplace and maximizing the overall amount and quality of innovation.
One of the key reasons for this view is the nature of information today:
...ownership of intellectual property is different from ownership of physical goods. Unlike physical goods, IP is not subject to limitations in supply. My use of an idea, invention or content does not diminish someone else's ability to make use of it as well. Such distinctions between IP and other forms of property are the basis for key policy underpinnings of IP laws, namely that inventors are given a limited set of exclusive rights to their inventions for the purpose of promoting innovation (emphasis supplied).
He links to the National Innovation Initiative and its report this month calling for the creation of a 21st century intellectual property regime that recognizes the collaborative nature of information. IBM, as a major holder of intellectual property, is making strides in that direction by liberalizing access to its licenses and patents.
If you're interested in this topic check out Lawrence Lessig, author of the future of ideas, and frequent blogger on intellectual property and the information economy. Lessig is a Professor of Law at Stanford. He makes the subject a little more accessible, at least for me.