Open-Source and Proprietary Models of Innovation: Beyond Ideology

Conference on Open-Source Proprietary Models of Innovation
4-5 April 2008

Ubi amici, ibi opes” (Friends hold all things in common)
- Erasmus, Adages I.iii.24

 “For this Labour being the unquestionable Property of the Labourer,
no Man but he can have a right to what that is once joined to,
at least where there is enough, and as good left in common for others.

- John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, Book II, Chap. V

In 2005, IBM, owner of one of the largest patent portfolios in the world, announced that it is contributing 500 of its patents to what it hopes will become an industry-wide “patent commons,”[1] and is putting its corporate heft behind a popular open-source Web development technology in a effort to reach out to a broader set of developers.[2] Clearly, the open-source phenomenon has gone mainstream.

Meanwhile that doughty band of academics and software innovators who proudly self-identify as the “copyleft” has “forked” into competing “free” and “open-source” factions, and the open-source phenomenon has migrated into other technology and creative fields, such as biotechnology and publishing. Some would even argue that open-source innovation is not really new at all, as it began seven centuries ago with the founding of the modern university, or alternatively traces its origin back to the beginning of agriculture.

But what kind of phenomenon is it?  Are we faced with two competing ideologies of innovation—open-source vs. proprietary—or two complementary models of innovation?

This interdisciplinary academic conference will seek to address the following specific questions about open-source and proprietary models of innovation:

How and when do the two models work?
How and when (and how well) do they work together?
What does law have to do with it? 

Hear from experts in the following fields of study (click participant's name to view abstract):

Anthropology:Christopher Kelty - Rice University

Biology:Richard Jefferson - CAMBIA

Business:Ned Gulley - MathWorks; Karim Lakhani - Harvard University; Joel West - San Jose State University

Economics:Michele Boldrin - Washington University; David Levine - Washington University

Education:Keith Sawyer - Washington University

Engineering & Computer Science:Christopher Gill - Washington University; Mark Jakiela - Washington University

Law:  Brett Frischmann - Loyola University; Robert Gomulkiewicz - University of Washington; Michael Madison - University of Pittsburgh; Ronald Mann - Columbia University; Charles McManis - Washington University; Tina Piper - McGill University; Arti Rai - Duke University; Andrew Torrance - University of Kansas; Greg Vetter - University of Houston; Jonathan Zittrain - Harvard University/Oxford University


[1]See Paul McDougall, IBM Grants Open-Source Developers Use of 500 Patents, InformationWeek (Jan. 11, 2005), available at£ry/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=57700456.

[2]See Martin LaMonica, IBM backs open-source Web software, c/net (Feb. 25, 2005), available at