What is a 'protected commons'?
A protected commons provides a secure platform where discussion concerning an invention or improvement can take place without the invalidation of future patent applications, or the misappropriation of information by third parties.
How does a ‘protected commons’ differ from the public domain?
Information that is publicly disclosed outside the context of a patent application has entered the public domain. Information that has been deposited in the public domain may be readily misappropriated, because those with resources can most rapidly analyse and define utilities for it, and then cover these utilities and any improvements on them with patent applications to prevent others from using them. Thus, open access to information "in the public domain" does not guarantee open capability to use it.
How does a ‘protected commons’ differ from patenting?
By placing patented and patentable technology in a protected commons, patents can be exploited for enabling use of technology by others instead of preventing it. The protected commons includes both patent owners and licensee users of the technology in the rights to share improvements and the capability to use them, whether these improvements are patented or not.
Allowing licensees the option to do this sharing in a "protected" (confidential) commons is deferring to the legal framework of patenting, which mandates that public disclosure of an invention should occur via the patent application. Owners of improvements may wish to patent them, so we provide a space for confidential, non-public disclosure of improvements to all licensees. All licensees have made binding agreements to the legal conditions of maintaining the improvements accessible to all other licensees, so there is an incentive to protect the technology for open use.