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Our system is unfit for exponential change.

Why quality of life must eclipse quantity of ideas

Putting IP to good use is just as important as creating it

By Manuel Desantes Real, Co-Director, Global Innovation Law & Policy Research Group, University of Alicante, Spain

The world has been changing arithmetically for many millennia. Since human beings were aware of their consciousness, we have been changing arithmetically, step by step. All our social, political, legal and technical structures have been adapted to this type of change.

But things have changed dramatically in the last thirty years.

The arrival of the internet, social networks, geo-location, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, 5G, the metaverse, quantum technologies, nanotechnologies: all these have transformed the landscape at the dawn of the fifth industrial revolution.

A system unfit for exponential change

Now we face a new era: the cognitive era. Now, change is no longer arithmetical but exponential. And our structures are completely unfit for a world that is moving exponentially, and this new world no longer revolves around tangible products or services or investments. Rather we are already in a new world where only intangibles have value in our society.

So for me the question is very simple: how to approach innovation and Intellectual Property in the new world?

The Intellectual Property system was born in the 19th century to serve the First and the Second industrial revolution. The point of these moments was to encourage human creativity and to reward those who created something new.

Innovation demands quality, not quantity

This is what we called the world of the novation – Novatio being the Latin word for something new. Therefore, our Intellectual Property system rewards the novatio, but not the in-novatio, the know-how to bring these new things into the market for the benefit of society.

But in this new cognitive era, what really matters is not the novatio, what really matters is the in-novatio. What matters now is not how many inventions or how many patents we manage to register, but how to ensure that all human beings, all our societies, benefit from the consequences of such inventions and such patents.

So as we increasingly shift from the world of novatio to the world of in-novatio, it is time to openly state that it is a mistake to continue focusing the success of our Intellectual Property system on the number of patent applications or on the number of patents. Instead, we should focus on the quality of our patents.

New mission to create social value

What should be the role of companies like Huawei in this new world? My view is that we all have to review our mission.

The new Intellectual Property system should be anchored in innovation. So it should be anchored in the creations that society requests and that actually ameliorate the quality of life of human beings.

The Intellectual Property system should assure that these are the creations that merit protection because these are the ones that bring actual value. And the mission of companies like Huawei should be to put the accent again and again on this point.

So please do not forget that crises are no longer cyclical: crises are now systemic. Companies like Huawei will have to learn how to live in situations of permanent crisis and learn how to sail against the wind.

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