Being an Open
What does it mean to be an entrepreneur making open source
hardware? An open entrepreneur has parallels to being
an entrepreneur of any company, but there are also advantages
that are often overlooked.
By Alicia Gibb and Nathan Seidle
duplicate, or modify your product. You
can find more information about the
definition at oshwa.org/definition.
While patents had been a well-established 200-year tradition, many
people in the open source hardware
movement wanted a new option. Sharing and personalization have taken a
front seat on social media platforms,.
The desire to share in entrepreneurship is taking a cue from the benefits
of sharing, transparency, and allowing
for personalization as well.
Open source hardware must follow
the communally written open source
hardware definition. Open source hardware can be certified through a program
released by the Open Source Hardware
Association. Certified hardware carries
a trademarked symbol (see Figures 1
and 2), and it is recorded in a database.
The gear logo may be applied, as long as
the definition is followed.
If you’ve ever talked with another person, kicking an idea around and brainstorming, you’ve taken the first steps of being an open source entrepreneur. As Kenneth Blanchard put it, “none of us is as smart as all of us.” Open source entrepreneurs engage a community in a symbiotic way: They leverage the community, but they also serve the
community. The entrepreneur creates the products based on the wants and needs of
these people. Often times the open source entrepreneur is extremely passionate about the
community they are involved in. When you’re extremely engaged, it is easier to work the long
hours necessary to get any venture off the ground.
Being an open hardware entrepreneur means building and/or selling
products that qualify as open source
hardware. An open entrepreneur has
made a business decision that transparency is stronger than intellectual
property (IP), and has chosen to open
the source to the world. Transparency levels vary from company to
company, but the minimum considerations for an open source product
is to release the source files for the
product. Some companies choose to
go further and share supplier details,
corporate policies, and some finances. Open source hardware is an alternative in the current IP landscape.
HARDWARE IP LANDSCAPE
Innovation currently has four options:
trade secrets, patents, open source
hardware, and public domain. With a
trade secret the inventor keeps their
ideas under lock and key, but does not
get any protections if their secrets are
published. A patent must be publicly
filed with the Patent and Trademark
Office. In exchange for publicly dis-
closing how the invention works, a
monopoly is granted for 15–20 years.
Public domain is truly open, with no
restrictions, and free for the public
to use. Open source hardware lies in
between patents and public domain:
Sharing the source but requiring at-
tribution and share-alike clauses, so
the same license stays with deriva-
tive products. Open source hardware
is hardware whose design is made
publicly available; anyone can study,
modify, distribute, make, and sell the
design or hardware based on that de-
sign. Simply speaking, open source
hardware is any device or product
where you, the designer, freely publish
your work and allow anyone to sell, or