A Proposal For A Government Policy To Purchase And Open Certain Patents As Gifts Free To The World
In the 1830s, a Frenchman named Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre invented a revolutionary process for capturing a permanent photographic image. After the daguerreotype process was announced to the
of Sciences, the French government soon thereafter purchased the patent rights to the process from Daguerre and his business partner, and granted these rights (and made a public disclosure of the process) to all as a gift "free to the world". French Academy
Because the process was legally opened to the public and the commercial rights granted to all, it created opportunities. Individuals and businesses could now participate in the commercialization and promotion of the daguerreotype process, unfettered in any way.
While other technologies existed, the low-cost daguerreotype became massively popular. As a result, we have invaluable historic photographic records we would not otherwise have thanks to France's worldwide gift. It is impossible to tell the full measure of benefit. Just consider the notion that our very outlook and understanding of history is enhanced by the insights this ubiquitous and free daguerreotype process provided.
Less than a century before
gave the daguerreotype to the world, a certain American was making a name for himself with his own inventions. Benjamin Franklin, the model to the world of American inventiveness, ingenuity, wit, and wisdom, held the philosophy that, "as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously." (Benjamin Franklin. "Part three". The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.) France
I propose that governments adopt unencumbered policies such that when government is in a position where it can wisely and legally do so, it should put streamlined mechanisms in place purchase key patent rights and release them as gifts free to the world.
A good candidate for patent acquisition and worldwide release seems to be General Motors, which entity holds a large catalog of patents and appears to have been propped up on life-support by the government. We can follow the philosophy of our own Benjamin Franklin, and the example of a once great France, and promote a healthy American market from the bottom up, rather than top down - with thriving industries and more free enterprise.
I propose a judicious program to disseminate rights to processes and inventions that have had their due time in the vaults away from free utilization, and should now be freed to the world to do with them what it is unfettered ingenious and enterprising minds will do, and in the process we will all benefit thereby.
As a precaution to corrupting the policy, classical rights must apply and should be a prominent attribute promoted with such policy. The owner of any candidate invention or patent must have absolute right to choice in the matter. He shall never be compelled to relinquish rights, if he so chooses, within the rightful duration of a granted patent.
Another note: a discussion related in the philosophy of free and open information is found here where the debate is based on the question, "should publicly funded research be free and available to the public? Two prominent Stanford scientists offer their views"