Open collaboration principles

I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what the Open Collaboration Principles agreed to by IBM, HP, Intel and Cisco, and seven research universities (including my own UC Berkeley) is all about. It’s being reported in some places as a new statement of support for open source, but that doesn’t seem right to me. The document is not a model of clarity – there’s more footnote text than document text, but I think this part of the statement clearly states what this is about:

This free & open collaboration principles document is the major underpinning of a policy for handling intellectual property rights arising from software related collaborations between industry and universities under circumstances where the participants intend for the results to be made part of a royalty free public commons (a body of knowledge that can be freely used by the public).

The document, in fact, makes it clear that it isn’t endorsing open source per se, rather it is codifying how companies and universities should handle IP when they want to undertake open source collaborations. What this announcement really strikes me as is a statement by these institutions that Bayh-Dole is an impediment to effective collaborations between industry and academia, and that the university IP demands it inspires make university IP more difficult for companies to work with. This is something I (and others) have been arguing for years, and it’s a positive step that these companies and universities are publicly acknowledging this.

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