Intellectual property is always a complex issue and it’s a spectrum.  And so even in the Media Lab, you have technologies that want to be part of open standards.  And almost by definition, those things have to be open and free.  Otherwise it will never become a standard. 

On the other hand, we are doing things like clinical trials where companies are going to have to invest millions of dollars and for those companies that invest millions of dollars in a clinical trial for some medical project, that’s going to require some protection of intellectual property so that they can recoup those investments.  And then there’s a whole spectrum in between.  

I think that it’s very important to make sure that intellectual property regime and policies don’t get in the way of innovation.  And in many cases, when you’re trying to interact with an ecosystem of ideas, intellectual property becomes an encumbrance. 

But also I think intellectual property becomes necessary sometimes to cause, in certain types of investments to happen.  I think people tend to be a little bit more on the protective side just by habit.  And I think what’s really important is to educate our faculty and our students at the member companies, the pluses and minuses and the impact of protection of intellectual property on the ability for that idea to be disseminated and be used in the rest of society because today, with networks and with the Internet, the network effect is a tremendously important part of the value of any product or service.  And often unless you open it up, it’s very difficult to get adoption. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

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