BiOS FAQs – About BiOS

  1. What is BiOS?

    The BiOS Initiative emerged in response to current business and legal landscapes which prevent many groups within the developed and developing world from accessing and harnessing biological science technologies. The initiative will foster democratic innovation in the application of biological technologies through the astute use of intellectual property informatics and analysis, innovation system structural reform and cooperative open access technology development activities.

    The objective of the BiOS Initiative is to create a public-spirited and public-good based initiative with respect to biological innovations.

    The BiOS Initiative will develop, promote and validate a new means for the invention, improvement and delivery of biological technologies.

  2. What does BiOS stand for?

    BiOS is the acronym of Biological Innovation for Open Society. BiOS literally means ‘life’ in Greek.

  3. But what does it mean?

    ‘Biological Innovation’ ranging from plant and animal breeding, crop husbandry and protection, agronomy, genetic and natural resource conservation, management and use, medical and public health interventions and environmental remedies will be encouraged by the technology options available to BIOS users.

    ‘Open Society’ is a goal that is reflected in the BiOS institutional philosophy and in a desire for a self-correcting community of problem solvers, whether in the public or private sector, whether in the developed or developing world.

  4. What is wrong with the current innovation system?

    The existing innovation system in biological sciences encourages the private appropriation of critical enabling technologies through intellectual property rights, typically patents.

    Increasingly, biological technologies are not self-contained, but instead are interdependent technologies requiring multiple key components to function to the point of delivery. Denial of access to any component prevents the use of the technology. With the massive increase in patenting of biological processes and materials, securing a pathway to delivery is virtually insurmountable by any but the most powerful corporations. For these entities, only the highest margin products merit attention, and thus they are not targeting products of interest to many smaller, less capital-rich markets.

  5. Are there any solutions?

    The open source software movement offers an alternative model for structuring legal and business landscapes.

    Several different types of creative licenses for copyright bind users and developers of core technology to continually share their improvements in a commons. Such licenses have encouraged a vibrant, robust new set of business models and a sustainable set of behavioral norms to emerge.

    These new business models are refocusing efforts in the private sector to deliver and support quality products for sustainable revenues rather than obtaining illusory competitive advantage in the short term by suppressing competition at the entry or innovation level. We anticipate that in biology as well, adaptation of these pre-competitive paradigms to the sharing and co-creation of new enabling technologies will similarly empower both public and private sectors to develop health and agricultural products and processes of real relevance to all sectors of society.

  6. Is the BIOS Initiative against Intellectual Property?

    The BiOS initiative does not encourage anyone to infringe the valid intellectual property rights of others.

    The complexity of the patent system, unfortunately, results in Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD) about what valid intellectual property rights exist. There are many claims to intellectual property rights that are not valid or not in force.  The BiOS Initiative, therefore, provides the Patent Lens, a free online resource to increase transparency in the patent system.

    The Patent Lens facilitates learning about what patent rights apply where, by providing tutorialsIP analyses, and the world’s fastest free, full-text searchable patent database from the largest patenting jurisdictions for the life sciences, containing nearly 2 million patent documents updated regularly.

    The Patent Lens provides not only the ability to search and look at technology described in patents, but also to explore where patents may not be in force, through the patent status and patent family database allowing patent searchers to check for information provided by the national patent offices on the dynamic status of patents and related patent applications in over 40 countries.

    This activity is funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the OS4 Action.

  7. What does BiOS actually do?

    The BiOS Initiative operates in three main areas: intellectual property informatics and analysis through the Patent Lens; innovation system structural reform through the BiOS Licenses and cooperative open access technology development through the BioForge.

  8. What is Intellectual Property Informatics and Analysis?

    The intellectual property informatics and analysis component of the BIOS initiative provides information about the intellectual property landscape. The Patent Lens gives access to the full resource, a toolkit we are constantly improving for the analysis of intellectual property landscapes.

    The resource was initially developed by CAMBIA. Currently this is the world’s largest full text-searchable collection of life sciences patents, and will expand soon to include other national patent collections and patents in other areas.

    The BiOS Initiative is working to create new resources that develop the existing IP toolkit to assist in the navigation of complex legal thickets and the evolution of intellectual property and technology.  Examples of these include innovations in commentable, reader-updatable interfaces for the technology landscape papers we have provided on freedom to operate, and the inclusion of free information on the status of patents, a service for which many companies charge significant sums to legal practitioners.

    If you have ideas of ways to help with patent transparency, contact us or join our discussion forum.

  9. What is Innovation System Structural Reform?

    The innovation system structural reform component will provide a platform for the creation of new mechanisms in licensing, relationships, contracts and policy at both national and international levels.

    Salient policy initiatives will be used to intervene in national and international discourse and policy creation to increase fairness in access to the tools of innovation as a fundamental human right.

    One of the tools we provide, the BiOS (Biological Open Source) license, is already in use by a growing number of companies and public research institutions that have agreed to terms of sharing the technology, any improvements, and any safety data.   You may wish to find out whether the public institutions funded by your taxpayer dollars are willing to share under these terms.

    We also provide an internet-based Discussion Forum for professionals and the public to discuss pertinent issues. We encourage you to join the discussion.

  10. What is Cooperative Open Access Technology Development?

    Cooperative open access technology development is being fostered in a prototype internet-based platform (  The BioForge concept is to collectively create useful technologies and empower diverse adaptation and implementation solutions by harnessing the communications power of the internet.

We’re looking for ways to improve and implement biological technologies that have already been made available under open source principles.  If you know of technology that can be added to the open source pool, see what can be done on the BioForge, and contribute new ideas on the its discussion forum or contact us.