Is Chevron committing an act of treason?

fox-batterySaw this tweet this morning from tech visionary, pundit and publisher Tim O’Reilly, which brought me to this article on “NiMH Batteries, Chevron Patents and the Future of Plug-in Hybrid Cars” and a sudden onset of disbelief and dismay, though after eight years with the Bush/Cheney oil-centric administration, nothing energy related that has favored an oil company (or been allowed to continue unchallenged) should come as much of a surprise.

The next thought was that this country not only needs patent reform desperately, but in the case of a fox (an oil company) guarding the hen house (NiMH battery use which could easily accelerate the building of hybrid cars) we need to find ways to have some form of intellectual property eminent domain so the foxes (like Chevron) can’t control our metaphorical food supply in the form of stored electrical energy.

It says in part, “If NiMH batteries are being used so successfully, why are American manufacturers fixated on Li Ion batteries? Part of the reason is that petroleum company Chevron owns the patent for the Ovonics NiMH traction battery. Under the ruse of saying they have not had sufficiently convincing proposals brought to them, Chevron continues to deny licenses to any company proposing to manufacture new NiMH traction batteries.

As is usually the case in matters of intellectual property, markets and trade, there are undoubtedly complexities involved in this patent and the use of it. It’s altogether possible I’m not seeing some subtlety or nuance that goes beyond what seems obvious on the surface. But come on…can this restraint of NiMH battery use by Chevron be any more obvious?

Where would be be today, right now, with delivering robust and powerful hybrid cars if there weren’t barriers to manufacturing NiMH batteries? It’s one thing for a company to strategically leverage technologies that pose a threat to an incumbents business, and quite another to bury it or place too many obstacles and barriers in front of its use. But when all of us have so much at stake with climate change, national security with oil, and an economy so dependent upon that oil, a disloyal act like this — working at cross-purposes to the imperatives of our nation — can only be described with one word: treason.

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  1. j brookes on July 21, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Actually, I’m pretty sure eminent domain does apply to intellectual property. The government could also force Chevron to ‘compulsory license’ the patent to competitors. I thought your post was excellent- it reminded me of a recently published book I just read which also calls for the NiMH battery to be released under eminent domain? It’s called “Two Cents Per Mile” by Nevres Cefo. It was really informative. I’m not sure how much luck you’d have finding it at a local bookstore- I found it on amazon after browsing around the website

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