Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Case for Openness and Investing in the Long Term

Our partner, Prof. Traore from the Kent State University School of Fashion, contributed this perspective on intellectual property at last week's Tuesdays@FUTURE forum led by Steve Cencula. Prof. Traore sent his remarks for us to read in his own words, below....

Intellectual property (IP) is a global as well as a local concern. In particular, private and educational institutions, across the world are struggling with the concepts and strategies of protecting their IP with the hope to recover their investments while making a profit.

However, a plethora of novel ideas stay more often engulfed under the shelves of back offices with a zero contribution to knowledge creation and to the betterment of human life. IP has different meanings for different institutions or people.

Understandably so, it has been a colossal wedge between the proponents of it pseudo-radical protection on one hand, and in the other hand, the champions of an open source constructs that will enable free or quasi free uses of the IP in an effort to accelerate economic growth in our fast-paced globalized environment. While IP protection for profit-making to motivate research, creativity and innovation is legitimate, the sharing and dissemination of knowledge to all users display nobility and humanism with a potentially more potent impact on the global growth and local prosperity.

Well, powerful lessons can be gained from scores of traditional doctors or healers acting in the nodes of social networks in valleys and mountains of Africa. Many times, they seem to give away their ancestral secrets that may annihilate a headache creating a cohort of human billboards carrying their good names across constellation of villages. This is word-of-mouth marketing in practice and branding at its best. The reasoning for the rest of mortals is, if they can cure this ailment, they certainly can problem solve any discomfort including the not-so-minute cases, which cures or IP, so to speak, are jealously guarded in secrecy. Because of that belief in addition to their built reputation, people experiencing disruption in their natural health management system will come to them for help with the promise of giving a larger compensation. Sometimes, it is just in kindness and good faith that the IP is given away. The recipients of the gift, after satisfaction, will come back and give to the masters whatever they believe is an adequate compensation for their know-how, IP, or savoir faire. And more often the compensations do surpass all expectations. Perhaps, our masters have just stolen from nature by observing the natural delay between planting and harvesting. We have a choice and we can opt for openness and invest for the long term.

The IP holders, instead of letting the IP collect just dust in drawers or actively searching for short term profit could embrace this simple principle or adapting it to their own circumstances guided by an open source philosophy. Not all the healers participate in the dissemination of the knowledge for the betterment of their village communities. By the same token not all institutions will or should join the movement. It is hoped thus that by opening the drawers and making IP available, open source behavior will be the pivotal key to bring about exponential economic growth and accelerated expansion of wealth in the new complex experience economy.


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