Abstract

Is intellectual property (IP) inimical to the development and deployment of technologies specifically designed for markets with no consumer power, i.e. for the poor? This article examines the role of IP in innovation for the poor in developing countries through two in-depth case studies of technologies emerging from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory: a novel water purification system and a new cook stove designed to improve health and environmental outcomes. The discussion highlights how IP operated within different funding environments that mixed public and private elements in novel ways. The article offers an assessment of the kinds of work patents and licenses performed in each case, and analyzes the consequences––some intended and some not––of using IP in developing technology. Besides providing some instructive lessons for the use of patents and licenses, the cases also demonstrate how new approaches for funding humanitarian innovation have blurred the categories of for-profit and non-profit.

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