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DIME Working Papers series on Intellectual Property Rights 36 - 40

WP36: Research Tool Patents and Free-Libre Biotechnology: A Suggested Unified Framework

Julien Pénin, BETA
Jean Pierre Wack, BETA

This paper proposes a unified conceptual framework to analyse the multiple role and consequences of patents in the case of biotechnology research tools. We argue that the knowledge/information and independent/complementary nature of research tools define heterogeneous frameworks in which the patent system plays different roles. In particular, using the analogy with the free-libre open source movement in software, we show that patents can promote open innovation by ensuring the freedom of some pieces of knowledge. A strong conclusion of the paper is therefore that, against common belief, an adequate use of the patent system may contribute to preserving freedom of access to upstream research tools within a framework that we call free-libre biotechnology.

WP37: The emergence of openness: How firms discover free revealing as a means to appropriate value

Joachim Henkel, Technische Universitat Munchen and CEPR
Simone Käs, McKinsey & Company

In open innovation processes, and notably in the commercial development of open source software, firms increasingly make some of their intellectual property freely and publicly available. This paper extends existing research on this topic by taking a dynamic perspective. We analyze what triggers the transition from ‘closed’ to ‘open,’ how openness evolves over time, how firms manage this shift, and what its implications for firm strategy are. For our study, we focus on driver software for computer components to be used with the Linux operating system. We use interviews, document analysis, and a survey to study this industry’s move to a higher level of openness. It turns out that Linux being open source software was not so much the reason for this increased openness, but rather a trigger to rethink engrained industry practice of overly strong protection. A feedback loop between increasing customer demand for openness and learning on the sellers’ side then set in. As a result, both value creation and value capture by the focal firm are potentially increased, and openness has emerged as a dimension of product quality in which firms compete.

WP38: Open Source Software: What we know (and do not know) about motives to contribute

Georg von Krogh, ETH Zurich
Sebastian Spaeth, ETH Zurich
Stefan Haefliger, ETH Zurich
Martin Wallin, ETH Zurich

Open source software is a major social and economic phenomenon that raises important questions about incentives and motivations in information systems development. For example, some software developers are unpaid volunteers who seek to solve their own technical problems, while others create open source software as part of their employment contract. For the past ten years, a substantial amount of academic work has theorized about and empirically examined developer motivations. We critically examine this work and show that it can be divided into two phases. In Phase One, scholars argued why developers contribute to open source software, while in Phase Two studies aimed at explaining the relationship between motivations of developers and institutional context characteristics such as community sponsorship or license restrictiveness. Based on research gaps and weaknesses in this work, we argue for entering a third phase of research that systematically integrates the social practice of software development and the institutional setting, in which open source software is embedded, with the types of motivations of developers. We apply the sociology of Alasdair MacIntyre to analyze the open source phenomenon and contribute a set of open research questions in Phase Three that we hope will sustain future research on open source software and allow it to flourish as it so far has.

WP39: The private costs of patent litigation

James E. Bessen, Reesarch on Innovation and Boston University School of Law
Michael J. Meurer, Boston University School of Law

This paper estimates the total cost of patent litigation. We use a large sample of stock market event studies around the date of lawsuit filings for US public firms from 1984-99. Even though most lawsuits settle, we find that the total costs of lawsuits are large compared to estimated legal fees, estimates of patent value, and R&D spending. By the late 1990s, alleged infringers bore expected costs of over $16 billion per year. These estimates support the view that infringement risk should be a major concern of policy.

WP40: A discursive approach to entrepreneurship and the emergence of organizational fields

Raghu Garud
Theresa Lant
Henri A. Schildt

The objective of this paper is to explain how emerging organizational fields influence entrepreneurial agency and, conversely, how such agency shapes emerging fields during upswing, downturn and stabilization periods. Adopting a discursive perspective, we explicate how shared symbols provide entrepreneurs resources to formulate and legitimize heterogeneous visions during upswing periods. During downturns, shared symbols lose their appeal, becoming liabilities for entrepreneurs who had used them in their narratives. Fields stabilize when narratives of valid and desirable practices converge, delegitimizing divergent practices.

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