TED Conversations

Goodness Ugwumba Opara

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What do you think of a world without patents?

The benefits of open innovation are undoubtedly clear, especially for the human race at large. We have seen the potent power of a lot of people working on an idea to speed up innovation in various fields. Yet one wonders how a company can survive without protecting its intellectual property.

Given that we have all benefited and continue to benefit from inventions of other humans across the world, and that humanity will as a whole will grow faster if people were free to take any idea from anywhere and make it better, build upon it; what do you think the future holds for patents?

Do we all owe it to the world to share our ideas freely, just as we have benefited immeasurably from ideas of people we'll never meet?


Closing Statement from Goodness Ugwumba Opara

I’d like to thank all of you for taking out time to make your very stimulating views heard. In addition, I’d say the following:
a. For those that believe innovators won't find funding for their research (if patents became a thing of the past), consider the recent trends in crowd funding. I believe that people will fund ideas they believe in, perhaps much better than the current system that relies on investors. I think this is possible for even the biggest and most expensive research projects.
b. Mr McGuinness, yes the world can be cruel, but we have repeatedly seen people’s willingness to extend a helping hand. Thanks so much for your input.
c. To Joel Harrison: perhaps the most important reason why you could carry out your research in the first place is that you were able to drink from the common cup of the knowledge of all humanity.
d. Thanks Juan Donado, but permit me to politely suggest that its not that simple. Yes it is probable that research funds from investors would cease, but I daresay other sources (crowd funding for example) will begin to take center stage; and on the second point, I think your idea is not yours alone. You are where you are today because you have benefited (perhaps more than you realize) from ideas from other people, that were improved by other people still. Nor does it mean that innovators will no longer benefit from their ideas, work, etc. I think it’s fair to say that patents have run their course; it’s time for something new and better, something better suited to the needs of a new era. The details have to be worked out though.
e. That’s a stimulating idea Bart HSI. Thanks for sharing.
f. Thanks Mr Tropp, yet I think copycats will remain copycats, and the innovators will get even greater honour and recognition for their work, and perhaps even more money, it all depends on how it’s organized. Consider that we will never forget the Wright brothers. Thanks for your time.
Lonita Minhea, Jennell Lewis, Krisztián Pintér, everyone, thank u

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  • Aug 16 2013: A World without patents would be a World with few, or even no innovation at all. If scientists, corporations, governments etc. were not encouraged by the usually huge profit opportunities from R&I then probably, they would not spend so much effort trying to come up with something new. That's obvious. But also I think it'd bring a wrong message to society as a whole: invent something and then see how others profit from YOUR idea. We're imperfect and greedy humans after all.

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