Post #2: IP vs. OSD – Inequalities

Often times, the mark of a good innovation is solely determined by its ability to make money and penetrate a designated market. However, working to improve society may be an equivalent measure of an innovation’s success. While it is hard to measure an innovation’s impact on promoting equality and improving social conditions, the ability to decrease inequality should be a factor when comparing  IP and OSD methodologies.

Intellectual Property (IP)
–  IP primarily helps corporations. According to the reading, “Four Hypothese on Intellectual and Property and Inequality”, approximately 20% of all patents are given to individual entrepreneurs. Whereas this figure used to be around 88% at the end of the 19th century.
– IP development often prevents the best social utility of a product to come into existence. For example, in the case of Myriad Genetics, the patents that were requested actually hindered better treatment for breast cancer, thus restricting the full impact on inequality that this product could have had.
– Lastly, contrary to popular belief, developments by IP do not end up “evening out” in society. This is primarily because in IP, the corporations make large profits on the innovation thus creating larger wealth gaps.

Open Source Development (OSD)
– OSD allows people to expand on others’ ideas. This is especially prevalent in Arduino and its ability to have people build off of each other. Because of this, the innovations created from OSD often are much more developed and effective in impacting local communities and infrastructures, and multiple people reap benefits, not just large corporations.
– Secondly, OSD is often run by amateurs who are passionate for a cause, not monetary gains. When people care about helping others, they are more likely to turn to OSD because they can get the most ideas in the quickest amount of time.
– OSD’s greater customization allows for greater social impact. The innate nature of OSD is for its products to be easily adaptable for whatever environment. This proves to be especially useful for rebuilding communities that are slightly different from each other. This means that inequality can be improved in more widespread communities, not just select ones.

In my opinion, this topic is a no brainer, in favor of OSD. In OSD, it is impossible for an innovation to completely block out its competition. The nature of OSD allows a whole product to be available for everyone. This means, if at least ONE person cares about decreasing inequality, they can advance that innovation to make an impact. But with IP, greed becomes a real problem. I think of a company like Turing Pharmaceuticals, who increased the price of a rare drug from $13.50 to $750 overnight. In this case, there is nothing that the consumers could do since they needed this drug to live and this was the only company selling the drug. Although this is an extreme situation, I think it paints a picture of the dangers of IP. Greed can consume owners, and they can become so obsessed with making money that they would endanger other people’s lives. If preserving life isn’t a fundamental behind decreasing inequality, then I don’t know what is.

Banzi, Massimo. “Open-source, Open World.” N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.
Benkler, Yochai. “The New Open-source Economics.” N.p., July 2005. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.
Kapczynski, Amy. “Four Hypotheses on Intellectual Property and Inequality.” (n.d.): n. pag. Yale Law. June 2015. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.
Stiglitz, Joseph E. “How Intellectual Property Reinforces Inequality.” NY Times. N.p., July 2013. Web. 29 Jan. 2017.


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