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Treating Intellectual Property like orphans

By Bryan Wong

I recently went to an orphanage near my neighborhood and noticed that it was packed with people. Since it was the New Year, many people took the opportunity to perform good deeds to start the New Year. This is good because besides giving donations in the form of monetary and goods, they also provide support to the children by just spending time with them, thus spreading love to them. This is important for the survival of the orphanage, especially those who rely on public fund for its operation.

The existence of the orphanage is noble and important, in order to provide a safe haven for children who has little or no support for growth from their own parents. According to The Spruce, among reasons why children are being placed in orphanages or foster cares is physical and/or sexual abuse, medical neglect, incarceration, abandonment, truancy, death and voluntarily placed.

However, there are organizations such as The REPLACE Campaign, which is in the opinion that orphanages do more harm to the children than good. According to Dr Victor Groza, children who grow up in an orphanage typically experiences delay in emotional, social and physical development. That is why The REPLACE Campaign is purposed to either return or keep the children with their parents; or to place the children in other family members, foster parents or adoptive parents; or to place the children in family-based environments receiving focused care.

I am not qualified to comment much about how the orphanages should be managed or where the children should be placed. However, I can’t stop to relate this to how we manage Intellectual Property.

As all inventors know, Intellectual Property is like our children. We create them, we protect them and we provide them with all the necessary elements for their growth and survival such as skillsets (feature enhancements), shelter & health (keeping them protected from external harm), food (electricity, lubricants, etc), guidance (algorithm programming to processors) and so forth.

However, there are instances whereby after creating our inventions, we are unable to provide the necessary elements for their growth and survival. Similar to the reasons of why children are being placed in orphanages, some inventors may no longer have the financial means to maintain the invention, some inventors may proceed with other inventions or projects which causes this invention to the neglected, some inventors may be instructed by financiers or employers to work on other inventions similar to the condition of incarceration or death of the inventor. In many cases, inventors especially those who are in the academic realm will place their inventions under the supervision of Research Management departments or Commercialization departments of the University.

To some extent, I think we should adopt the Vision of The REPLACE Campaign, whereby placing inventions under the care of departments or organizations other than the inventor will stifle the development of the invention. If the original inventor has no capability to take care of their inventions, they should at least find another inventor or foster parents who will be able to provide the necessary environment for the invention to contribute to the society.

Some great inventions were not being commercialized due to the inventor didn’t pursue further to take care of the invention, but under certain circumstances the inventions were rather neglected or transferred the responsibility to another non-inventor. For example, inhalable insulin by Pfizer, cheap affordable household planes by Henry Ford, smokeless cigarettes, wrist-twist steering control by Henry Ford, wink glasses and many more. If these inventions were able to make it to the market, how things work might be changed, and to some extent might be able to contribute to the society.

The idea is that the inventors should be allowed or given the opportunity to take care of their own inventions as if it is their own child. If under some circumstances whereby the invention has to be managed by another department or organization, the inventor should still play an active role in further developing the invention or to pass on the invention to another credible inventor. All these will provide the necessary condition so that the inventions can be nurtured and developed to contribute to the society.

 


Bryan Wong is the Executive Director of Intellect Patent & Innovation Sdn Bhd. He is a Registered Patent Agent and Registered Industrial Design (ID) Agent with the Intellectual Property Corporation of Malaysia (MyIPO); Registered Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Agent with the Department of Agriculture Malaysia (DOA) and HRDF Certified Trainer.

Bryan