We’ve tossed around the idea many times of creating a consortium of non-competing companies that could share research and ideas to help further along a cause. In particular, consortiums around health care, education, and Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) innovation are generally where our ideas coalesce. Yet, we’ve never gotten to the point of realizing these dreams getting caught up on the legalities of how it would all work, particularly when it comes to intellectual property.
Two companies, Nike and Best Buy, are challenging conventional thoughts around intellectual property (at least by US standards). They’ve started the GreenXchange, with the focus of sharing intellectual property for green product design.
With GreenXchange, companies can not only share research, innovation and design amongst themselves, but can also make patents available to the public. Each contributor to the exchange commits to a non-assertion pledge, which allows the patent to be used in other research for green product design. GreenXchange recognises that green innovations can be shared across a variety of industries, often with a different purpose, and will not necessarily pose a threat in terms of competition. If a company is concerned about sharing product design with competitors, they can opt to designate selected patents to be made available for sustainability uses. GreenXchange also aspires to use technologies that support networking and knowledge sharing to promote open innovation in the ‘digital commons’
I’m curious to see how this consortium fairs. I hope it does well, as I think it could really create a strong working model for other causes of similar magnitude and complexity.