Michael Moore’s new movie, “Capitalism – A Love Story” provided us the inspiration to blog about Patent Plutonomies. Ajay Kapur, (former) global strategist at Citigroup, and his research team came up in 2005 already, with the term “Plutonomy” to describe a country that is defined by massive income and wealth inequality. According to their definition, the U.S. is a Plutonomy, along with the U.K., Canada and Australia. In a series of research notes, Kapur and his team explained that Plutonomies have three basic characteristics:
1. They are all created by “disruptive technology-driven productivity gains, creative financial innovation, capitalist friendly cooperative governments, (…) the rule of law and patenting inventions. Often these wealth waves involve great complexity exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.”
2. There is no “average” consumer in Plutonomies. There is only the rich “and everyone else.” The rich account for a disproportionate chunk of the economy, while the non-rich account for “surprisingly small bites of the national pie.”
3. Plutonomies are likely to grow in the future, fed by capitalist-friendly governments, more technology-driven productivity and globalization.
So what would Patent Plutonomies mean? An IP world driven by those large patent owners who know how to play the IP system and how to make money by patenting all features of new, basic technologies, Big Pharma to deprive Developing Countries from access to essential medicines, patented Biotech Research tools, prevent R&D centers to conduct basic research. Inventions meant to assist and promote R&D by Universities, public funded R&D centers and the like which have no access to IP other then after paying hefty royalties to the detriment of tax payers money.
One cannot deny that increasing numbers of people comign from diverse parts of society look at IP as a tool for the well IP informed large companies, players like IBM, Philips, Qualcomm, and the like and patent accelerators who acquire massive patent positions, basically adding to the crowded market of patent licensors, seeking revenue from yet unexplored IP that need monetization, preferablt the less fortunate and less informed.
Sure, this is not necessarily our view, but it cannot be denied that an increasing number of people support the view that patents are for the rich and powerful (only) and only hinder innovation, drive prices up, prevent access to essential public resources like heath care, stifle SME innovation and prevent free and open innovation. The opposing view, by the holders of the patents, are driven into obscurity, not able to clearly articulate what IP does for innovation, why Pharma patents and their owners just want to get paid for their massively costly investments and do provide access to the less fortunate.
It might be worth digging deeper if and how the increasing opposition against patents and discussions on patent quality have to do with Patent Plutonomies and how this would help improving the system, without getting rid of it all together.