A New Protection: the Context
A patent gives you exclusive rights to produce and sell that invention for a number of years; no one else can make money off of it without your permission. But lately, some people in the maker movement have concluded that this strategy – in a dynamic and distributed context – is not successful, for a number of reasons.
The alternative strategy, then, is sharing one’s own (if we can still call them this when there are many “external” contributors) creations. What’s more, with some types of license the protection works in the opposite way: we can use what we have created on the condition that we continue sharing it so that other people can benefit from it, just as with open source software.
What can we do, then, to have the authorship of the project acknowledged?
Unsurprisingly, it is the community we have built in a climate of mutual esteem and trust that helps us, acknowledging us as the legitimate authors. The participants not only help us, but they also represent a direct return in terms of visibility, fairness, and reputation.
It is true that with this approach we don’t get the level of legal protection afforded by patents.
By operating in this context, we share anything digital, thus permitting the reproduction of our artifacts on the other side of the world too. The only thing we keep is the brand, which allows us to unequivocally identify an object coming from our productive pipeline, just as with open hardware products such as Arduino. The important point is not to fall prey to forgery – the only true offense to this business model, because it doesn’t protect the original manufacturer or the consumer.
Sure, everyone can build an Arduino-compatible board, but few people will actually do it. Most people will prefer buying it directly from the manufacturer, who offers the bits and bytes for free (all necessary information to create the product) but who sells the atoms (finished product). For example, although you can make an Arduino clone, you can’t call it Arduino without licensing the name because it is a trademark.
Support the Arduino.cc Community
Lately there has been a certain fuss about the so-called Arduino wars. To completely support our point (ok, maybe not for that… but it’s a nice side effect) Adafruit has just launched a campaign to support the Arduino.cc community. Of course there are legal proceedings going on, but the support of the community will be crucial, whatever the outcome.
We are immensely grateful to the community for everything it gave us, and we’re talking about a huge amount of value. In this new “sharing economy” our role as makers (but not only as such) becomes more and more active, so we encourage you to take action.
To quote the tagline of the Marvel Comics crossover “Civil War“,
Whose Side Are You On?