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les Nouvelles - June 2009


Licenses As Critical Sources Of Innovation Part 3: Technological Revolutions & Implications

Viktor Braun

Visiting Scholar at MIT, Sloan School of Management, Attorney and Counselor at Law, currently Düsseldorf, Germany

There is something inherently comforting and yet bewildering in the cyclical flux of the seasons.

The often sublime shifts from the blossoms of spring to the light and warmth of summer to the beautiful decay of fall influence not only our sentiments and behavior but have been critical inspirations for the developments of technology. Consider how the ability to control fire revolutionized the lives of our human ancestors. Since then we have devoted large efforts to enhance our standard of living and to become, as far as possible, independent of the weather. While the speed of technological progress was relatively slow for tens of thousands of years, it is astonishing how society has changed within the last centuries and even decades. On this seemingly inevitable path to an ever increasing technologically-shaped society, it is important to determine where technological revolutions originate from and what lessons can be learned from the process of innovation.

In the preceding parts of this series on the critical but often neglected role that licenses play in the innovation generation process, we outlined how Japan used licenses to become one of the worlds’ most technologically sophisticated countries and how licenses led to the development of crucial medical innovations, such as insulin. In this final article, we will take the discussion one step further. We will focus on a few revolutionary technologies that originated from licenses and that had a substantial economic and social impact. Finally, this paper will summarize the lessons learned from our three pronged investigation.

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