"No genius without copying": how loosening the "tyranny of intellectual property protection” will stimulate innovation

We live in an "open source" era; however, value extraction from innovation is still largely based on an aged model of protecting intellectual property. Firms are reluctant to create new products and services if they are going to be copied quickly. This principle applies across industries ranging from mobile devices to pharmaceuticals. As a counterpoint, and by synthesizing ideas and evidence from across a wide spectrum, this paper argues that a shift in outlook regarding intellectual property may be required to keep up with developments in technology and how markets operate. First, as described by Eric von Hippel, information "spillovers" are increasingly frequent: few trade secrets remain so for very long. Second, the availability of tools such as 3D printers and the Raspberry Pi means that the process of replicating or improving a product has become simpler. Finally, the ubiquity and unruly nature of the internet means that both information spillovers and the availability of advanced tools and knowledge are becoming increasingly prevalent. Under these circumstances, the paper argues that is increasingly difficult to maintain a traditional stance on intellectual property; rather, it is apropos to examine more open models of innovation, such as that of Lyon silk weavers in the 18th century. For example, a leading Lyonnaise silk weaver, Phillipe Lasalle, conducted his trade as if there were "no genius without copying" (Foray, 2006, p.175). This paper also argues that in more a diffuse innovation paradigm, traditional modes of IP enforcement may act as an inhibitor by preventing this "copying" from taking place. Finally, the paper states that value extraction could alternatively be tied to voluntary payments and reliance on product ecosystems instead of IP enforcement.