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Let’s all share

A good intellectual property ecosystem will allow innovation and collaboration to thrive (Thisisengineering - Unsplash)

By: Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Nahrizul Adib Kadri

I recently received the official notice about my trademark application for sauna32™, an IoT-enabled thermometer that my team designed during the first few weeks of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020. Despite the delay in the process, it reinforced the importance of perseverance and innovation in the face of adversity. It also highlighted the significance of a robust intellectual property (IP) ecosystem in nurturing creativity and driving progress.

Assoc. Prof. Ir. Dr. Nahrizul Adib Kadri

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, innovation is key to addressing the myriad challenges we face, from climate crises to socioeconomic disparities. These issues are multifaceted and complex, requiring collaborative efforts and collective ingenuity to develop sustainable solutions. A well-balanced IP ecosystem plays a crucial role in fostering collaboration by providing inventors with the protection and recognition they deserve while also facilitating the sharing of knowledge and ideas for the greater good.

Indeed, the benefits of a strong IP system extend far beyond individual inventors. It serves as a catalyst for economic growth and development, driving investment in research and development and encouraging entrepreneurship. Patents, copyrights, and trademarks not only protect the rights of creators but also incentivize innovation by allowing them to reap the rewards of their creativity. Moreover, by disclosing their ideas to the public, inventors contribute to the collective pool of knowledge, laying the groundwork for future advancements and discoveries.

Take, for example, the case of Jonas Salk, who famously refused to patent his polio vaccine in order to ensure that it could be distributed freely and reach as many people as possible. His selfless act not only saved countless lives but also exemplified the power of collaboration and shared innovation in tackling global health challenges. Yes, his critics might have pointed out that his vaccine lack the originality to be patented, but one still cannot take away the sincerity of his intentions in giving away his invention.

And Salk is not alone. Throughout history, there are numerous examples of inventors deciding not to file their innovations for the benefit of others. Marie and Pierre Curie did not patent the process for producing radium, choosing instead to make it available to other scientists and researchers. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the World Wide Web, did not patent it, making it freely available for everyone to use. John Walker, who invented matches but did not patent them, wanted to make sure they were available for everyone. And towards another extreme, Mikhail Kalashnikov, who invented the AK-47 assault rifle, did not file a patent because he wanted it to become a contribution to his mother land, the Soviet Union.

These inventors may not have filed their patents, but their inventions, together with those patented ones, have helped built the better world that we are living now. I truly believe that we would not have been here at all if these collaborative efforts have not been established. And in today’s increasingly interconnected world, collaboration is more important than ever.

Collaboration serves as a catalyst for unlocking new possibilities by harnessing the collective intelligence, skills, and perspectives of diverse individuals, thereby fostering innovation and problem-solving. Can you imagine life without the Internet now, if only Sir Tim Berners-Lee have decided not to share his HTML invention to the world?

Effective global collaborations are essential for addressing complex challenges and seizing opportunities. With advancements in technology and globalization facilitating easier connections across borders, enduring partnerships rely on principles like shared objectives, clear communication, and mutual benefit. Nothing a Zoom call won’t fix, they say nowadays.

And in our current so-called knowledge economy, collaboration drives success and innovation by enhancing creativity, fostering diversity, and promoting inclusion. It also fosters learning, growth, and strong relationships by facilitating the sharing of knowledge and skills. And most importantly for me, collaboration enhances morale, trust, and inclusivity, leading to higher retention rates and better preparing university students for a diverse and interconnected world.

In conjunction with the World Intellectual Property Day observed annually on April 26th, let us recommit ourselves to fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation. Let us be less selfish and more willing to share our ingenuity with others.

Because by doing so, we can create a better, and brighter, future.

The author is an Associate Professor of biomedical engineering and former Director of Corporate Communications Centre, Universiti Malaya. He may be reached at nahrizuladib@um.edu.my

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