Putting the global patent system under The Lens
Global social enterprise Cambia and the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) are using a US$1.6 million Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to develop The Lens – an open, public web facility containing comprehensive patent information for inventions from almost 100 million documents in 90 countries, linked to millions of scientific and scholarly articles, in a form that will allow users to collect, annotate, share and embed their findings.
The global and growing resource is free to all, claimed to save innovators, institutions, investors and companies millions in lawyers’ fees and make the world of patents, science and technology vastly more accessible. It also claims to provide new measures of social and economic impact of public funding of science, and helps create pathways to choose partners, make better decisions and deliver value from that science.
Cambia (which means ‘change’) is an independent, non-profit institute creating new technologies, tools and paradigms to promote change and enable innovation.
“Right now, navigating global patents to make new products is like building a jigsaw puzzle in the dark,” Cambia founder and The Lens Director Richard Jefferson said recently at the Canberra launch of The Lens, replacing the older Patent Lens.
“But, humankind faces unprecedented problems requiring unprecedented solutions – decentralised innovation by new and different people and institutions.”
Building on the success of Cambia’s popular Patent Lens, the work has attracted funding from and collaborations with some of the world’s most prominent philanthropies and institutions over the years, including The Rockefeller Foundation, National ICT Australia, the US National Institutes of Health, the Lemelson Foundation, the US Patent and Trademark Office and global IT company Qualcomm, as well as two previous grants from the Gates Foundation.
The Lens’ goal is simple but ambitious: “To democratise innovation by freely sharing the knowledge that has until now been locked inside a massive, fragmented, opaque global patent and innovation system that only multinational companies had the money to navigate.”
Professor Jefferson, who holds appointments in QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty and Law Faculty, said The Lens would prove a game changer for individuals, small and medium enterprises, public sector organisations and policy makers and enabled patent offices to improve their search capabilities and large companies to reduce their costs and decrease their vulnerability to so-called patent trolls.
“The partnership with QUT has been critical,” he said.“This university is committed not just to studying social change and training others to drive it; QUT is itself making change happen by working with Cambia to give the public the tools to forge their own routes to affordable, relevant and successful problem solving.”
Richard Jefferson is an American-born molecular biologist, named in 2003 by Scientific American as one of the 50 most influential technologists in the world, and is acclaimed as a global leader social entrepreneurship. After serving with the FAO he founded Cambia in 1991 and moved in to Australia in 2009 when he joined QUT.