It was interesting to learn in “Daybreak of the digital age” that Princeton’s John von Neumann elected to forgo patent claims on the computer he and his team designed that launched the computer revolution.
Princeton should use the centennial anniversary of Alan Turing *38’s birth to open a conversation on the role of patents in a university: whether, to what extent, and under what circumstances they contribute to the widest spread, access, and use of knowledge and to what extent they may be in direct conflict with the University’s fundamental mission.
With most of the value of U.S. business existing in intangibles, Princeton should be at the forefront of the policy debate around how the United States and the world community can best make innovative information accessible and useful to the public. Partaking neutrally in this wider conversation necessarily, at a minimum, means examining the propriety and effectiveness of Princeton’s own patent policies. This examination of its own policies should be highly transparent and involve the entire University community.