Issues in IP management to support open access in collaborative innovation models

Sara Boettiger


Building Web–based collaborative environments to encourage innovation in patentable technology provides different challenges than those found in the realm of copyrightable material. Cyberinfrastructure can be designed to encourage a free exchange of information and ideas that produces well–documented benefits for collaborators. But this may come at the cost of foregone patent rights, as the disclosure of information can limit options to patent. If the goal is open access, though, some argue that the predisposition toward the public domain is an important element. This essay argues that achieving openness in fields of patentable technology may require cyberinfrastructure that is designed to accommodate flexibility in the management of intellectual property. First, the potential value of patents is explored as they support the goal of open access. For some technologies, collaborative cyberinfrastructure may inadvertently restrict open access because placing a technology in the public domain removes the leverage a patent owner has to influence downstream activity. Second, this paper considers the potential role of defensive publishing in cyberinfrastructure; a lack of control over how the inventions are published may make it easier for others to surround the published technology with patents, ultimately limiting open access. In some instances, strategic defensive publishing may be warranted in order to place technologies more securely in the public domain. Both of these discussions explore the likelihood that designing cyberinfrastructure for innovation in patentable technology fields demands a keen understanding of the interface between the public domain and patents, and also a balance between retaining options for IP management and enabling the fluidity of collaboration.

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