Patent Liberation Front


reverse engineering patent archives

The word patent originates from the Latin patere, which means “to lay open” (i.e., to make available for public inspection. This form of Intellectual Property originates from the perceived need to protect ideas so that the people who thought of them have first dibs on developing them. Fair enough, you may think. But the way the current system works is that technically speaking, anyone can file for a ‘patent’, but not everyone has the funds to actually build and implement these ideas. So who decides what gets built? We call the complex mechanisms of supply and demand the ‘market’. But the market is not particularly imaginative, and operates according to the logic of profit. This means that many great, funny, strange, wild and uselful inventions never make it, because of a simple lack of inventments.

This project originated from a visit to the UN Technology Climate Summit in New Delhi in 2009. There Shailoh Phillips learned from technology developers in emergent economies that one of the biggest issues in the global scramble for alternative energy sources to break the ‘addiction’ to fossil fuels is not a lack of ideas: humans bring forth an impressive array of electric cars, solar panels, geothermic pumps, wind turbines, networked technology for creating smart grids sharing renewable energy.  Information on how to build and maintain the required infrastructure exists, it’s just tucked away as proprietary tech in profit-driven companies. Intellectual property laws makes it impossible to share and test ideas on a wider scale. 

Open Design principles – sharing your secrets, documenting, it’s a wonderful idea which is common in the activist and artistic scene, but time and again proves incompatible with tech corporations who are out to make a profit. In this project I look at patent archives as a kind of unintentional open design: by filing for a patent, you have to give information about your invention. I look at this documentation as raw material, scouting for patents that get lost in the competitive market. Interesting ideas that have been though of, but never produced (I only pick the ones that have a value, but no investors to build it). With the Patent Liberation Front, we are scouting the patent archives to find inventions that are particularly innovative in regards to migitaing the effects of climate change (green tech, alternative energy, sustainable design). Using a number of loopholes in patent law, we build, test, document, use and share the inventions – we show the inventions, but we don’t sell them. In order to do this, we bring together legal, technical and artistic expertise to challenge the waste of good ideas in the current intellectual property system and encourage open source liscencing.
     What we do is NOT patent infringement. Not selling or stealing, not competing or copying, but hacking the system by simply materializing, testing and using. This is based on a differnt value system. Not looking at the monetary value, the innovation for a market, but the use value. What we do is making unsollicited advertisements and proof of concept for ideas that already exist, but don’t make it under the current market conditions.