I came into the summit with a straightforward question: How do you keep it all open? Often the first aspect of the open source movement people fear is the ease to “rip off” ideas. The concern that your hard work and time innovating will simply be taken is understandable. With traditional avenues, such as patents, people feel that protecting oneself equates to being closed. While there may be appropriate times for such avenues, the reality is that it’s probably not necessary. Why? Well, the answer is just as straightforward as the question: community.
If your company/product/service creates value, a community will form. This is the best protection. People are not only purchasing a product when they buy from Adafruit or Makerbot, they are joining a community. This community makes the experience for those purchasing the item far richer. They are entering an arena of intangible value. Phillip Torrone from Adafruit and Makezine brought up a great example of someone purchasing an imitation of an adafruit kit from a chinese company. The person bought it (probably because it was cheaper), and it didn’t work. Where did the person turn for help? The adafruit forums. Were they able to help? Of course, the community did what they could and in the end, the person said they were only going to buy from adafruit. I can assure you this conversion is a regular occurrence.
“If your company/product/service creates value, a community will form.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.