Dagens Nyheter reports that Swedish solar cell researchers seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand they have the know how to produce cheap electricity in countries without developed electricity grid infrastructure. On the other they have an expectation from the funders, among others the Swedish Energy Agency and Vinnova Foundation, that their research lead to business development. "Swedish tax money must benefit Sweden", they say, and "patents are important". Since the guys at Vinnova knows the earth is round and that there is no cosmic dumpster at the end of the world where you can drop your stuff, I think the argument "Swedish tax money must benefit Sweden" actually provides a more global perspective than it sounds like. So I'm not worried about that statement. What is more worrisome is the statement "patents are important". Yes indeed, they increasingly are since they tell you what you cannot do without a licence. That permission today may include saving lives and/or saving the planet. But there is more to the patent problem than that moral dilemma. The meme "Patents Foster Uncertainty and Risk" launched last year by EPO is getting stickier. Large companies keep cross licensing their way out of the patent inflation mess and initiatives like Global Innovation Commons is copying the principles from the free software manifesto. On top of that, the Pirate Party argues there is no place for the patent system in an information driven economy. I think they got 13% of the young vote in Berlin. I think it is time to listen up. If the increased inaptness of the patent system is a trend related to the growth of collaboration and free knowledge on the internet, the Vinnova guys have to answer some hard questions from the Swedish tax payers. Like why would Sweden benefit from being known as a promoter of litigation? What is the net GDP loss of not taking the opportunity to make "Made in Sweden" equivalent to clean water, pure power and sustainable and collaborative development? As Anders Hagfeldt put it:
- Of course I would like to see a positive development in the Third World. You do not want to be a bottleneck for development.I agree. Let's remove the bottlenecks.