Deepak Syal, IAM Top 300 Patent Strategist, Singapore Entrepreneur of the Year, Edison Award, Red Herring Top 100, Co-Founder @GrayB.
According to Howard Rheingold, “Open source manufacturing has shown us that world-class software, such as Linux and Mozilla, can be made without the bureaucratic structure of the company or the incentives of the market as we know it.”
To me, Mozilla and Linux weren’t just projects; they were movements to democratize web browsers and operating systems. It feels great to see that we have started to approach the domain of intellectual property (IP) in a similar way. I believe that the current open source initiatives in the IP domain will bring more openness, innovation and opportunities to the patent system and will benefit everyone involved: inventors, patent professionals, companies, etc.
Open source models have proven to create opportunities for all stakeholders. End users can enjoy great features that meet their needs thanks to a plethora of features developed by the community. By establishing common standards, open source projects combine the efforts of different development teams to create cumulative output. The best thing about open source projects is that the speed of development multiplies as developers build on the code created by one another.
Moreover, open source models also create a world of commercial opportunities. Companies can adapt the code and include it in new products. For example, open source allows them to add stable, tested features to their products without spending time and money developing them.
An open source sensation: Mozilla Firefox
Can you imagine browsing the web browser without tabs or pop-up blockers? We wouldn’t have had such a great browsing experience without Mozilla Firefox. Even if many of us don’t use Firefox directly today, it has greatly inspired the browsers we currently use.
We all experience the web differently through extensions and plugins, which is a gift from the developer community. The browser’s huge success can also be attributed to the leadership’s focus on bringing security, simplicity, and speed to the browsing experience. Each new piece of code was added on a meritocratic basis after a thorough review.
Mozilla Firefox also attracted a lot of interest from companies. Google’s search engine greatly benefited from its widespread adoption by joining the Mozilla Firefox movement. Many forget how popular it once was, and in 2007 Mozilla had Firefox 25 million downloads over a period of 99 days and 200 million in 629 days.
A world of opportunity: Linux
Linux, the first open source operating system, was created for computers in 1991 by student Linus Torvalds. Today it is used in many other digital and computing devices such as smartphones, cameras and tablets. In fact, countless applications have been built on top of it over the past 30 years. The possibilities emanating from the open source nature of Linux have undergone a remarkable evolution over the past three decades. According to a Fortune Business Insights report, the Linux OS market will intersect the $15 billion mark soon.
It started with Red Hat Linux, which offers its version of Linux built on the publicly available source code. The company earns revenue by entering into long-term service contracts with companies that use its products, certifying developers and programmers, and training users and application developers. Not only Red Hat, but also Oracle and Canonical (the company that funds Ubuntu) have greatly benefited from the open source nature of Linux.
The open source revolution in the IP domain
The success of any open source program is driven by removing the pains of existing solutions and delivering greater benefits to stakeholders. So, where is the pain in the patent system? I think it lies in the obfuscated data hidden behind complex patent language and clumsy ways to access it. However, this should change soon.
Public patent databases and open source tools promise to open up patent data silos to everyone. I see these tools as transforming the IP landscape by making patent search easier, cheaper and more intelligent. It takes time and expertise to collect and review state-of-the-art documents. Open source search engines can use smart algorithms to help anyone search for state of the art, regardless of their experience.
For example, PQAI, a library of open source APIs for processing patent data, offers an AI-powered search engine – very intuitive for investors. It helps inventors by accepting the natural English language search instead of complex keyword-based searches. Take Gephi, for example, which makes patent data visualization highly insightful for business use cases.
How to explore open source applications
The open source business model allows companies to adapt the software for commercial use cases. Why create a tool from scratch when you can use open source code repositories to build on your own? Of course, a wise businessman would always want to add value and sell things for a better price.
In my company we also have a team of developers and patent tools under our name. However, when we start developing a tool, we make sure to explore what already exists in open source code repositories.
There are countless ways to take advantage of such open source initiatives. For example:
1. Integration of open source code into your existing commercial application.
2. Build new commercial applications.
3. Financing the development of a commercial application.
4. Devising training and certification programs.
5. Collaborate with other companies to create a commercial application by bringing together different expertise.
The open source intellectual property arena is still very new; therefore, early adopters can benefit significantly. I encourage you to explore it.