By Joseph N. Hosteny of Niro, Scavone, Haller & Niro
In his new book, Crowdsourcing, Wired editor Jeff Howe describes the advances achieved by loosely collaborative work that is performed by a number of contributing individuals. His first example is a very good one: Linux, the open-source operating system. Mr. Howe describes Linus Torvalds’ decision to develop Linux as a free operating system, with thousands of people contributing to it. Linux is now a widely popular operating system which, Howe says, is used in “everything from supercomputers to digital video recorders such as TiVo, to say nothing of the millions of personal computers that run Linux.”
What makes open source so efficient? In the broadest of strokes it’s the ability of a large number of people to contribute. The open source evangelist Eric S. Raymond famously summed up this fundamental truth when he wrote that “Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow” – which is to say that no problem is too thorny if enough people take a crack at it. Put another way, a large and diverse labor pool will consistently come up with better solutions than the most talented, specialized workforce.
Crowdsourcing then applies this same rationale to patent applications, but unfortunately succumbs to a few canards and misconceptions along the way. For example,...