Nokia just made an unprecedented move: In an effort to boost the local Finnish economy, they’re throwing open their thousands of unused patents so that any company in Finland can pursue ideas that Nokia has abandoned. The innovations include ideas for energy, location-based services and ads, health-care applications and internet services, among others. It’s not simply a matter of Nokia giving out its worst ideas for free–it, along with many big, innovative companies, frequently patents ideas which they ultimately decide not to pursue for reasons ranging from feasibility to manpower.
Dubbed the Nokia Technopolis Innovation Mill, it’s a partnership with Technopolis, a European chain of office parks, Tekes, a Finnish tech funding agency, and several Finnish cities and towns. As the press release explains, it’s all part of an effort to pump activity into the Finnish economy at large; Nokia acknowledges that promising ideas might ultimately blossom if pursued by smaller, more focused firms. To support that effort, 8 million euros in venture funding will pour in; 4.5 million of that will be publicly provided.
Would something like this ever work in the U.S., where patents have often become a way of squatting on an idea hoping for a payout when someone else pursues it? Would any company be so apparently altruistic?