IP is to Gates as Oil was to Rockefeller

While at the end of the 19th century the richest man in the world, John D. Rockefeller, made his wealth in the oil industry, the richest man of the 21st century, Bill Gates, disposes only of one resource: Intellectual Property.

(This is a guest post and a note to let you know about a new discussion paper by the talented Dr Roya Ghafele (above) from Oxford University.)

This alone, seems reason enough to question the type of institutional context that policy maker should provide for the privatization of knowledge. Is it legitimate to privatize knowledge through IP? What type of innovation do we foster if that very innovation is primarily based on the principles of the market based economy? Can it make sense to foster innovation on the basis of a judicial framework that is essentially built around the logic to exclude others and make knowledge primarily available through monetary compensation?

I consider these questions fundamental policy concerns that Austrian politicians should be addressing. Who has access to knowledge resources, and under which conditions these resources are being made available will determine who the winners and losers in Austria are and will be in the future. But, rather than passionate debates in Parliament, the left and the right consider Intellectual Property a political non issue that is at best left to some technocratic expert panels, suggesting that across the political spectrum Austrian politics is still very much anchored in a 19th century rationale.

The discussion paper is the very first of its kind in illustrating the new role of intellectual property in the knowledge economy in Austria. It makes the case for the development of public private partnerships, so to assure that valuable knowledge generated in universities is being picked up by the market, while at the same time guaranteeing the preservation of the public interest. The policy paper  has been published by the Austrian Council for Research and Technology, a Government body that has as its sole mandate to advise the Austrian Government on policy making in the area of Research and Technology. It is to be hoped direly that it will form the baseline for a political dialogue on IP.

The electronic version is available for free in German at:


[Photo credits: wikipedia]

One Comment on “IP is to Gates as Oil was to Rockefeller

  1. Pingback: IP is to Gates as Oil was to Rockefeller | austriatoday

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