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Crowdsourcing the most out of your intellectual property

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Crowdsourcing the most out of your intellectual property

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A year or so ago General Electric made the news with an announcement that they were teaming up with the innovation community Quirky.  The partnership was a relatively straight forward one.  GE would release a number of their hitherto untapped patents to the crowd of inventors at Quirky.  Should those patents be turned into a commercial product, the revenue from that product would be split between inventor and GE (with a bit for Quirky).

Albeit with slightly less fanfare, the UK based site Marblar has been undertaking a similar mission to untap the potential sitting in the dusty vaults of corporations IP archives.  The site, founded back in 2012 by PhD students Daniel Perez (Oxford), Mehmet Fidanboylu (King’s College London) and Gabriel Mecklenburg (Imperial College London) in 2012, aims to apply the insights of the crowd to untapped patents.

Here’s how the site works.  Intellectual property, said to be worth over $500 million, is posted to the site from the likes of NASA and a host of leading universities.  These are all patents that have yet to achieve a commercial application.  The crowd then submit ideas for how those patents could be turned into commercialised products.  They then turn to their partner Samsung to help manufacture the product.

It’s an interesting concept and one that saw the site shift from its initial approach, after 30 competitions saw over $50,000 in prize money paid out without a single commercialised idea to show for it.  The site hopes that the partnership with Samsung, which was announced last autumn, will help with the prickly issue of implementation.

The hope is that eventually other fulfillment partners will come on board to help turn those ideas into viable products.  It’s obviously a different approach to open innovation than that taken by the likes of Innocentive or the X-Prize, but with a seemingly endless amount of intellectual property stuck gathering dust, any efforts to open some of it up have to be applauded.  With manufacturing and fulfillment partners being brought on board too, we might even see the end of the patent trolling culture that has emerged in recent years.

It’s a really nice idea and I very much look forward to seeing how it progresses in the coming years.

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