There is a need for realizing projects under ‘open source’ license for the welfare of society at large. Critically examine the above statement in the context of intellectual property rights.

Intellectual Property Rights provide protection to innovation – in products, processes, etc to incentivize investments and outputs in innovation. India’s IPR policy provides overarching framework for same. Open source licence, refers to making innovation public, at no cost to all.

Advantages:

  • Enhanced public welfare, as more and more companies and processes can use the innovations to benefit public, e.g. Philips open-source smokeless Chulha reduced indoor air pollution.
  • Reduced cost of new and cutting edge Technologies, e.g. Vaccines.
  • Impetus to further innovation based on open source, e.g. CRISPR-Cas acts as a base for many Bio-tech innovations in future.
  • Increased brand value of company and sustainable profits & market for future products.

Disadvantages:

  • Possibility of misuse by miscreants for harm to humanity, e.g. Cyber-terrorism using open source software.
  • May harm profitability, as investments in R&D, may not get compensated.
  • May hamper incentives to innovate in future.

Way forward:

  • Patent pools can be a viable mid-way between open-source and closed-source IPRs.
  • Compensation and financial help from government may improve viability, as under compulsory licence.

There is a need to balance rights of patent producers with public welfare for sustainable innovations.

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