Scenarios for the future

This report features comments on the patent system and intellectual property in general made by twelve experts from around the world.

Over the past three years, the European Patent Office (EPO) has interviewed well over a hundred leading thinkers in industry, society, administration and government to fi nd out their views on the future of intellectual property.

Their ideas and opinions formed the essential building blocks in the development of four scenarios for the conditions and challenges that might face us in 2025.


Director - ESRC Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics, Cardiff

"What is important is to rethink the whole philosophical basis on which intellectual property rests. Intellectual property is not a fact of nature; it is to be argued for. Intellectual property rights are privileges rather than rights."


Special Adviser to the Minister for Science, Technology and Higher Education of Portugal, Lisbon

"Many patents today are purely defensive, and the whole approach in the patent field should move from a defensive to a proactive process to enable technological transfer." 


Programme Manager - Open Society Institute, London 

"There's no way back. The genie is out of the bottle. The internet is a fantastic tool that makes sharing the default. There was no such thing, or at least not on that scale, ever before. The internet more than anything makes us fundamentally question the current IP regime." 


Reader in Intellectual Property Law - Queen Mary, University of London 

"To expect the IP system to carry the entire burden creates a perception that intellectual property itself is much bigger than its capacity to provide incentive and reward for commercial transactions in knowledge, but it is now becoming the ethical judge, the arbiter of moral development." 


President and CEO - International Intellectual Property Institute, Washington DC

"Our general view is that any country currently functioning successfully at the economic margins, in either agrarian or manufacturing form, will soon be unable to sustain the needs of its people without making the transition to a knowledge-based economy." 


Director - Third World Network, Geneva

"One of the solutions is finding ways to promote innovation and to reward good work without necessarily using the intellectual property system, because it may not be the right system to provide rewards all the time."



Director - Knowledge Ecology International, Washington DC

"The question is whether intellectual property enables a business model that does not pit the organisation against the consumer, who does not want to pay too much, but does not mind paying if the organisation provides an equitable good." 


Co-ordinator - Innovation, Access to Knowledge and Intellectual Property Programme, Geneva

"There is a conceptual difference between granting patents to simply encourage investment and granting patents to encourage innovation."



Senior Researcher - University of Hamburg

"Excessive patenting can erode the public domain of open science, chilling the free exchange of knowledge and material which is necessary for the advancement of science."


Director - Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, New Delhi

"The patentability of life forms, the concept of allowing patents on life, has caused ethical outrage. Life was not invented, so the concept of claiming exclusive rights to it is unethical, and this ethical issue has been translated
into legal issues."


Vice-President Intellectual Property - Air Liquide, Paris

"I am not convinced that Europe does what it should do in terms of intellectual property and the Lisbon Agenda. Most politicians do not understand intellectual property - in fact, they are hostile to it."


Senator - French Senate, Paris

"It is absolutely essential for the patent system to become more transparent and do a lot of explanatory work, tuition, explaining to people, explaining to all kinds of groups
what it is and why it is so."

The full interviews with these and other experts, and the different scenario worlds with their risks and opportunities, are presented in the "Scenarios for the Future" compendium, which is available free of charge on the EPO website at

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