The Future of Intellectual Property

It’s interesting to speculate on the future of intellectual property. Will open source collaboration and peer-to-peer sharing lead to a world where information becomes a free resource? Or will patents and copyright restrictions continue to rule?

Two interesting stories this week provide contradictory insights. Computer Weekly reports that Eli Lilly, a leading US pharmaceutical company is putting research work out to open tender to enable its transformation to a networked organisation. In contrast, the Economist reports on the growth of patents in China and the opening of 50 courts to deal solely with intellectual property cases.

As with many things in life, there are contradictory trends. On the one hand we have the growing power and knowledge sharing and collaboration to develop valuable new intellectual property. And on the other there is the need to protect the increasing value of intellectual assets which are becoming more significant in an information-driven age.

One thing is clear though. Copyright restrictions have been growing throughout the last century, ever since Walt Disney made a fortune out of ideas lifted freely from the Brothers Grimm.