Building walls or promoting innovation for society

Short notes for TransAtlantic Economic Council, Washington DC, 15-12-2010

TACD firmly believes that a culture of innovation can benefit consumers and society in general. While it is true innovation is often market-driven, many social needs such as health, culture or education are not always met by easy business opportunities but instead require the fruitful sharing of technical knowledge, flexible new ways of economic blossoming in the digital environment and the effective transferring of young, grassroots imagination into new useful tools for our rapidly changing society.

This means that innovation cannot be simply counted by the number of patents or copyrights we possess.  It also means that instead of orienting our effort to promote new innovation,   it may be counterproductive to focus much of our present regulatory effort on building massive walls around existing inventions or knowledge  with draconian IP enforcement measures such as some of those proposed in the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement that can actually “chill” innovation by the threat of massive penalties and, as a result,  go against the interests of consumers.

TACD is convinced that a vibrant innovative economy needs to strengthen consumer confidence by drawing up clear rules of fundamental rights, data protection and privacy that often collide with  international policing proposals that tend to cast criminal suspicion on millions of consumers in their non-commercial sharing of knowledge. (For example, the ACTA proposal does not include a clear definition of “commercial scale” for criminal violations of IP laws.)

New flexible business models based on “fair-use” and reasonable IP   enforcement can provide new affordable access to great quantities of inaccessible accumulated knowledge, such as orphan works, as well as creating profits for companies, new cooperative and competitive ways of producing new affordable medicines can save millions of lives by reducing prices and weakening monopolies, new bold steps toward the convergence of standards and interoperability eliminate barriers can  create a giant TransAtlantic consumer- friendly market (In this sense, we congratulate the positive step taken for the interoperability of E-Health records). This is a win-win situation for all.

The task before us is to ferment a culture of imagination, technology transfer and economic initiative while at the same time enhancing the social cohesion and democratic nature of our societies.