Eric von Hippel on Democratizing Innovation and Norms-based Intellectual Property Rights

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Video 1

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"Eric von Hippel proffers multiple examples where an ordinary user, frustrated or even desperate, solves a problem through innovation. His research found innovative users playing with all manner of product: mountain bikes, library IT systems, agricultural irrigation, and scientific instruments. Often, manufacturers keep at arm’s length from these inventions. He describes the Lego company “standing like a deer in headlights” when technologically adept adults discovered they could design their own sophisticated Lego robots. User communities arise, freely communicate with each other, advance ideas and sometimes even “drive the manufacturer out of product design,” according to von Hippel. This widely distributed inventing bug is a good trend, believes von Hippel, because users “tend to make things that are functionally novel.” Not only is it “freeing for individuals” but it also creates a “free commons” of product ideas, parallel to the more restrictive world of intellectual property governed by less creative manufacturers."

Video 2

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"Innovation is increasingly becoming "democratized" as users develop products for themselves. Many freely reveal what they have developed to a commons. Others, however, appear to assert some rights to their innovations on the basis of community social norms. Professor von Hippel provided an overview of democratized innovation, and then describe a case study of informal recipe rights expectations among French chefs. Professor von Hippel is Head of the Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His research is focused on the nature and economics of "distributed" innovation." (