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The commons takes on Microsoft

Which is more vital to economic growth, the idea of knowledge as property or the idea of knowledge as a commons?

library commons University of WaikatoA statement issued the other day by the Open Invention Network contains more than the standard yadda-yadda-yadda.

"In less than a year, OIN has accumulated more than 100 strategic, worldwide patents and patent applications that span Web / Internet, e-commerce, mobile and communications technologies. These patents are available to all as part of the patent commons that OIN is creating around, and in support of Linux. We stand ready to leverage our IP portfolio to maintain the open patent environment OIN has helped create."

That's a quote from Jerry Rosenthal, a 37 year IBM veteran who now heads the OIN. In addition to IBM, OIN members include Sony, Novell, RedHat, and Philips. (The picture above is of the library commons at the University of Waikato, New Zealand, where the Weka project originated.)

The key word here is commons. The Internet and open source, by their nature, expand the commons, which like a public park or roadway is available to all. But intellectual property owners are fighting back on all fronts. And this may be the most important economic issue of our time.

Which is more vital to economic growth, the idea of knowledge as property or the idea of knowledge as a commons?

The OIN, the open source movement in general, and the Internet all say the commons. But the only way to win is to have contributions to the commons, and benefits from the commons, exceeding what proprietary vendors in all areas may claim to control.

On this Thanksgiving weekend I'll assert only that this battle has really just begun.