Fellow designer blogger csven has written a great article on his observations on the state of Intellectual property and its future impact on Design and of cause Industrial Design as well.
Image: Colador 2 by Josep Altarriba
Here is an excerpt:
At some point, p2p networks won’t have just mp3 files, they’ll have CAD files. When they do, the first thing that will happen is factories in distant corners of the manufacturing world will start churning out bootleg product at a pace that will make current infringement look like pre-Napster music “sharing”. After that people will start using locally-based fabbing services to rapid manufacture parts the way people used to photocopy stuff at the local copy shop. Eventually, home-based 3D printers (or, possibly in the more distant future, nano-factories) will allow people to fab something as easily as they currently print their digital photos.
That’s the future. It’s all up for grabs. Creatives can either try to fight it or they can figure out new business models.
This is a multi-fold discussions with many considerations.
The intellectual property protection myth
Personally for me I have long given up on this IP nonsense. If your entire business plan is backed by an IP you got a problem. It takes only about a 10% modification of a design to over come an IP protection. Put it this way if you really wanted to take the effort to copy something its not really that difficult.
The reality is an IP only has specific coverage, and if your technology has value and multiple applications then by all means protect it and sell it. IP is a sink hole of funds, but if you can farm it out for royalties then go for it!
The real rules of the game
The reality of things are a successful content (music, product, object etc.) is more than IP. It is a well oiled engine of branding, design language, technology, manufacturing, and marketing. All added together makes it a hard act to follow.
Just look at Apple? Their products not only push the edge of design minimalism, but their part construction is flawless and extremely difficult to replicate without specific technology. Furthermore any vendor that steps out of line with Apple will never survive due to their brand equity walking out of the door.
At the end of the day, my view is copy all you want, but you ain’t getting into the infrastructure I have created.
The IP point of it all?
On the other end, I find the extent by which IP is often enforced is just plain ridiculous! As csven laments it has just went overboard and stink of corruption and dirty politics.
While copying in any form is always bad, but claiming a loss of business that forces obscene settlements particularly in the music industry? It’s just not logical unless if you can prove if that person would have bought your product in the first place should such MP3 downloads are not available.
A cease and desist punishable by the law or fines is good enough. What point is there to bankrupt a poor struggling housewife when her young naive son downloads?
IP and creatives
At the end of the day we are fast approaching a creativity cusp. A melting pot of fast internet, digital media, and miniaturization of manufacturing (fabbing). When you can download CAD files off the net and “print it” on your desktop, my inclination is to give the files away for free!
And why not? It takes a big change in mind set, but the reality of trying to protect digital media is like carrying water in a sieve.
From a designer’s stand point, content creation NOT content protection will becomes even more and more important. It will also become a discussion of the difference between amateur and professionals. I coined the term Hyper-creative in my previous post “Fabbing: A primer for Guerilla Design Strategies” and that will be what design professionals need to become in this new product development era ruled by digital media and the Internet.