This paper presents the blueprint for the design of a practical system that would promote sharing of ideas among researchers, to allow them to identify optimal partners, to protect their intellectual capital, to ensure attribution of their ideas and to create equitable sharing in the ownership and revenue of any eventual commercializable invention. The title, Crowd Inventing, reflects the fact that the signaling among researchers in search of best partners – the “crowd” – is itself an inventive element in their larger enterprise. The combination of legal and technological components that the Crowd Inventing system offers allows it to reduce the transaction costs of this search. It is an invention about the inventive process that promises theoretical and practical advantages that will hopefully attract research sponsors or private enterprise to invest in promising projects and to thereby better promote and reward innovation. Qatar's rich research environment and entrepreneurial aspirations make it an ideal forum to implement the Crowd Inventing system as a platform that will allow it to capitalize on its investments through commercialization of products and processes. Crowd Inventing is designed to help researchers and innovators:

• Find valuable complementary ideas and research collaborators that are missing from their research team and that threaten to impair or, worse still, cripple their project. The drive to commercialization of research, as well as the basic goal of ensuring attribution of one's research, confronts huge challenges when all the inventive elements are not part of one large enterprise that has designed its own proprietary signaling and invention protection system. The open community of researchers who publish in conferences and journals confronts these challenges, with the result that researchers engage in greater secrecy that limits communication and impairs collaboration and, if they do publish, of losing all attribution and commercial value to the inventor who builds a successful product on their ideas.

• Address the inability of intellectual property to protect against a downstream user's failure to attribute or share revenue. Intellectual property imposes little or no legal obligations on such users to attribute the source of the ideas they employ. It also focuses all reward on the last person to combine the inventive ideas into a final, commercializable product; there is no legal requirement of sharing revenues with contributors that fall outside its corporate or contractual network. Neither copyright nor trademark protect the functional ideas that a researcher discloses in his/her publications. These ideas are deemed to pass into the public domain to become free for competitors to use. Nor do they provide the researcher adequate protection against false attribution. As a result, a downstream user can pluck the idea from the public domain, use it without attributing its source, and even itself claim full attribution.

• Reach their patent goal. Patent law provides researchers with protection for their novel functional ideas, but its reduction-to-practice requirement means that the proprietary reward that it offers is very distant from many research projects. In many areas of innovation the authors lack the collaboration and capital to put together all of the pieces, with the result that the entity adding the last needed element can capture the full commercial benefit of the invention. In a world where ever-increasingly complex projects result in cost-prohibitive and prolonged research and the demanding search for collaborators to stay the course to eventual invention, the patent hurdle produces huge unintended consequences. Increased secrecy is one consequence and this has strong negative effects on publication and on the signaling required to find the missing elements for successful invention. Large enterprises whose rich financial and human capital is congregated in a single corporate silo often emerge as the winners in this environment – and when they do achieve a patent they have the financial resources to protect and defend their resulting property rights. However, academic or disbursed research communities do not typically have these resources or systems in place to compete. Even though their decentralized structure and flexibility mean they are increasingly the sites of path-breaking discovery, they are unable to successful achieve patenting and their ideas pass to others to commercialize them or to fade into obscurity. The proposed Crowd Inventing system crafts a legal and a technological solution that offers the following practical solutions to research and innovation problems:

• The signaling mechanism needed for successful collaboration; more effective sharing of ideas; full attribution to all contributors; equitable sharing in the rewards of patenting; and the enhanced ability to attract financial investment to projects. Researchers that subscribe to Crown Inventing would contractually enter the system through a master agreement that defines and protects member's attribution and revenue-sharing rights. Underlying this is a technological information-sharing platform whereby data is shared in standardized form and access is monitored and controlled using a system of digital management that would help secure and control information flows. The researcher submitting the information (the source) could track access to its information and ensure attribution, while the user could more easily verify the lineage of ideas and link it more closely to the reputation of its source. Thereby both sides could gain. The Crowd Inventing master agreement would also supply contractual templates to provide standardized resolution of the revenue sharing aspects of any resulting joint ventures and its trained intermediaries could facilitate agreements, either of which could be less expensive than employing the lawyers and the other professionals that typically exact heavy taxes on every venture or technology transfer transaction.

• The means to find out the conditions under which the research data was generated and to identify and approach the source through the clearing function of the information sharing system. Once the parties had identified themselves they could begin to work together to learn more about one another's work and address the terms of any relationship between them based on this information. The Crown Inventing System anticipates the contractual needs of their relationship facilitating an ensuing master agreement which avoids the potentially long delays of initial contracting. (If necessary the identity of the source could be held back until a formal approach is made by the interested party to the source).

• The apparatus to more successfully monitor and publish the reputations of the members of its user community. Crowd Inventing would facilitate a community where not only the reputation of products (academic or applied) could be charted by registering the number of transactions, but also the reputations of companies and academic labs as joint venture partners (their good faith and candor) could be logged thereby creating a system of accountability and verifiable reputation.

• The means to create a “market” based on failed experiments conducted by other researchers in related areas. While the Crown Inventing system is designed principally to promote maximum innovation and successful invention, it could also be adapted to create a “market” based on failed or stalled experiments conducted by other researchers in related areas. Currently there is a dearth of communication within the scientific community concerning unsuccessful experiments and failed hypotheses. Only successful experiments are published; scientists do not expose their failures perhaps out of fear that it will lower their prestige and because of a lack of an appropriate, widely-disseminated forum for this purpose. The Crowd Inventing system could be used to address sharing of information about failed or shelved experiments as readily as it could regarding successful experiments, and in the process it could create market value for such information.

• A useful complement to the internal governance structure of large corporations. While it is contemplated that the Crown Inventing system would be ideally suited to communities of scattered researchers or small independent companies, it could also be employed as a useful complement to the internal governance structure of large corporations. Such enterprises confront at the level of their inter-departmental relationships, problems of how to share information between departments, employee attribution, what budgets to set for each department, and the departments, compensations, which the Crown Inventing system could address. In summary, Crowd Inventing aspires to offer the research community a solution to the impediments to collaborative communication and the inequities of an intellectual property system that rewards the last contributor and that fails to protect attribution of prior inputs. In the process it promises to help researchers more easily find the collaborators and commercial funding and other resources they need to reach invention. It is itself an academic-conceived invention that with adequate community or commercial funding could become a reality that makes Qatar a leader in facilitating innovation. This proposal is led by Professor Clinton Francis, the Founding Dean of the Hamad bin Khalifa University, who is joined by HBKU Juris Doctorate students who will assist in conducting the research for, and design of, Crowd Inventing – an innovation about innovation.


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