“To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
-Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution
From the founding of our nation, intellectual property (IP) has played a role in shaping our economy and society. Many see it as a fundamental bedrock of innovation in a capitalist society. Others see it as a tool for entrepreneurs to successfully navigate through the Valley of Death or as a signal to indicate to potential business partners and donors the legitimacy of their product or idea. But we have to ask ourselves, can these goals only be accomplished through a method that purposefully creates a monopoly in the marketplace?
Enter open source design (OSD.) OSD is where the original source design (of an idea, product, software, etc.) is made freely available and may be redistributed and modified. Instead of stifling competition through patents like IP, OSD creates new markets for competition to take place. With the code or product openly available for anyone to edit, advancements can take place rapidly. There is no need for these people to waste time figuring out how to recreate the original product; they can immediately begin on improving the innovation. OSD pools knowledge together creating a product stronger than one person could conceive. Take Wikipedia for example: you would be hard pressed to find one person who knows all of the knowledge contained on the site, but the combined knowledge of many puts the knowledge of the world at your fingertips. Tesla Motors has also taken advantage of OSD by “applying the open source philosophy” to their patents
and allowing anyone to work on their electric car design in hopes of improving it rapidly. (Why has this worked for Tesla?
Patents shut potential competitors out of the market and allow the large corporations to sell their products at outrageous prices. Of course, it is only the large corporations because the patent process is too complicated and expensive for the real innovators at SMEs to obtain. OSD creates better products for lower prices. Open source is what will truly “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.”
Simply, as technology rapidly evolves, our systems should as well.
Header photo: http://www.strategy-business.com/article/A-Strategists-Guide-to-Blockchain?gko=0d586
Tesla patents: Musk, Elon. “All Our Patent Are Belong To You.” Tesla. N.p., 19 Aug. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.
Tesla video: TheLipTV. “Tesla Patents Open-Sourced By Elon Musk.” YouTube. YouTube, 18 June 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.