writes in to let us know that Ocean Tomo, the patent auctioning
company has worked out an agreement to auction off a package of 25 NASA patents
covering things like signal processing, GPS for spacecraft and sensor technologies. Ocean Tomo always
presents itself as somehow creating value from patents, but always seems to ignore how its version of creating value often means significant value lost
to actual innovators. In this case, there's an even bigger question: didn't taxpayers pay for those patents by funding NASA? So why is some company now going to benefit from them, while locking the public out? In effect, the public is paying twice (at potentially inflated prices) for these inventions. Yet, you won't hear that from Ocean Tomo or the press reports about this auction, which note:
"Creating a market for patented technology funded by NASA benefits both the government and the commercial sector that will take advantage of it."
That leaves out the taxpayers who funded this in the first place and
is simply incorrect. It harms
the commercial sector by making them pay again for something. If NASA wanted to benefit the commercial sector, it could have placed those patents in the public domain, so that the commercial sector could compete to do something useful with them, thereby spurring on competition and more innovation.