Institute of Patent Infringement

Institute of Patent Infringement

Institute of Patent Infringement

© Amazon Technologies, Inc.

March 1, 2018
Institute of Patent Infringement
Open call
February 19–April 16, 2018
Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
Campo de l’Abazia, Cannaregio
Chiesetta della Misericordia

As part of the extended programme of WORK, BODY, LEISURE, the theme of this year Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, The Institute of Patent Infringement is concerned with the existing legal infrastructure that allows “Big Tech” a stranglehold on questions surrounding automation, both today and in the future. 

As we go through an “AI spring” we’ve seen a gold rush to patent radically new forms of automated environments, driven through advances in deep learning and combined with increases in big data, machine-learning algorithms, computer processing power and cloud technology. Yet, while companies like Microsoft or Apple tinker with endless patent variations on consumer products, it’s Amazon, with their own brands of automated futurism, which seem intent on merging processes of machine learning with principles of spatial organisation. 

Since 2010, Amazon Technologies Inc. has filed 5,860 patents that range from the seemingly banal to the resolutely absurd. Illustrated by dry line drawings these patents provide a glimpse and representation of the automated future Amazon aim to create. The implications of this are broad. Amazon look set to define future typologies, bypassing the input of traditional professions. To take an example, management modules indicated in Amazon’s patents, can now map space more effectively than a surveyor, produce floor layouts to be more efficient than an architect and oversee retail facilities more productively than a retail manager.

An obsession with efficiency has further led to the quantifiable worker, seen through countless patents for technology that monitors and evaluate workers. But the scope of the quantified body goes far beyond this, and as patents for human RFID tags suggest, Amazon are equally at home with the technology transferred to the general public. Put another way, Amazon’s broad ambitions, seen through their patents, affect us both as practitioners and also as citizens.

Underlying this is the wider practice of intellectual property protection and patenting rights used as a means to define the direction of automation. It is a process that has proved an essential weapon in technology companies’ growth strategies and key to their monopolistic dominance over the last twenty years. 

Intellectual property today is a complex web of international treaties, patent laws, institutions and steering committees that serve to create a legal infrastructure enclosing and privatizing knowledge. International legislation including the TRIPS Agreement and Patent Law Treaty has produced a closed framework that allows multinationals a monopoly on technological development. Exploiting this legal framework, Amazon’s patent filings over the last seven years can be seen as a concerted effort to own both the digital and physical infrastructure of our unfolding landscapes of automation. 

Open call 
To negate this top-down and closed system, The Institute of Patent Infringement thus invites submissions from students, industrial designers, architects, urban planners, artists, programmers and the wider public to merge, reimagine, infringe and hack existing Amazon patents. 

The crux of the open call is to emphasise the radical and emancipatory potential inherent in these new technologies assembled by Amazon. To reveal this potential, submissions may chose to challenge: the hyper individualised and consumption based nature of Amazon’s wider patent filings; the emphasis on efficiency and quantification through data collection inherent in these new technological regimes; labour, social relations and the role of automation within this; the relationship with nature and the environment; unequal global processes of production and distribution; and the affect of these technologies on everyday life.

For more information on the open call, including submission guidelines and to download supplementary material, please see the website

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March 1, 2018

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