The Story Of The Heritable Innovation Trust™


On the overcast, rainy afternoon of March 2, 2006, I was in Geneva at the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Open Forum on the Draft Substantive Patent Law Treaty (SPLT). I had just been informed by the WIPO Director General that it was not in his mandate to make innovation information available to marginalized nations on Earth. In fact, he reported being pressured to back away from our cooperation to launch an innovation distribution engine for the world for free by stakeholders in Europe and the U.S. who felt that giving the world too much information would be bad for business. I puzzled over how this position squared with the WIPO debates on how to “protect” Traditional Knowledge and Indigenous Rights and it hit me. “They don’t want to protect anything. They want to turn this knowledge into copyright and, in so doing, take the knowledge from communities,” I thought. By writing down traditional knowledge about medicines, arts, music, materials, and environmental management, industrialized companies and their agents and advocates, under the disguise of helping marginalized communities, were about to steal knowledge from future generations through the careful misuse of copyright. You see, under copyright, all this information would be lost to public domain in no less than one generation.

“There must be a better way,” I thought. There is. It’s called the Heritable Innovation Trust™. You see, under contract law, you can disclose information for a reader or consumer and can stipulate that the information is perpetually bound under terms defined in a contract. Unlike copyright, the Trust allows communities to share information (under what is like a “click through” license in software) that obligates the provider and user of the information to build and honor a relationship – forever. Instead of dragging communities into the broken models of a restrictive past, the Heritable Innovation Trust invites knowledge holders and users into a cooperation that will last and grow.

- Dr. David Martin