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The Maker Movement does not need to be presented. Even the White House has expressed its gratitude and admiration for individual inventors – single heroes; and the World Bank has recognised their potential.
But the daily life of Makers is not (always) that sweet and victorious. As they get more technologically advanced, they face new challenges: financial, resource-related or legal.
The project focuses on the legal aspects, specifically on patent law. There are two ways Makers meet with patents: 1) they want to obtain a patent for their solution, 2) they get confronted with a patent infringement claim. The latter led to the question of the efficacy of patent flexibilities (“patent windows”) that reduce the patent exclusivity over the use of an invention. They provide both the freedom to operate and enable defence in patent infringement lawsuits.
The project also contributes to the ongoing discussion on the reform of patent law, and suggests the re-consideration of certain legal tools in the light of the Maker phenomenon.
Beyond any doubt, Makers deserve special attention in the legal field for a number of reasons:
1) their technological contributions,
2) popularisation of democratic ideas: participation, trust and responsibility,
3) for making a part of this world better.
(The patent system shared once the same principles … before it has changed into a money-making machine.)
The reference point for the research is collective making: when an idea leaves the safe private harbour (adverbial basements and garages) and enters open waters of knowledge dissemination and commercialisation, where a patent infringement may easily occur. Against this background I analyse the scope of patent windows (statutory provisions and doctrines) stipulated in four legal systems: Germany, the UK, the USA, and Japan. I present the main construction lines and apply them to the Maker environment. There are measures, e.g. private and non-commercial use or experimental use, that work in “making” but under certain reservations.
The talk serves advising and increasing the awareness of the scope of the permissible uses on patented solutions.