Is Nike stealing its R&D? | Brand Republic Feature

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I recently watched a fascinating presentation on Open Data, by Nike VP of Sustainability, Hannah Jones. For those who don’t know Open Data is the concepts of making intellectual property and patents freely available to gen public.

How does it work?

As a principal software companies and developers have been open sourcing for years, and development communities have shown staggering adoption and growth. After all it’s the method behind Smartphone apps, so why not everything else? And that’s exactly the question Nike have asked. If it works for technology, why not rubber, pants and shoes? Nike have already got underway by releasing a number of patents, in the hope that some might yield a revolutionary breakthrough that they can later capitalise on.

So why do it?

Because the principal demonstrates that lots of independent people can yield greater success through R&D more quickly. Well, Open Sourcing their IP does give a company like Nike access to a huge user base, far broader than any of their in-house R&D departments. And in an open market, development can simultaneously prove the concept, fix the gripes and generate the sales along the way.

Isn’t IP worth something?

If there’s one thing that the advertising industry has taught us, it’s that an idea is actually worth nothing until it’s capitalised on. What’s exciting about Open Data is that it should fuel entrepreneurship, in theory.

Perhaps the agenda should be clearer. Giant corporations like Nike are adopting tactics like Open Data that have been more akin to start-ups. They’re playing a smaller game with a very large bat. The truth is that anything showing signs of uptake with a consumer group will likely be dragged right back in to their marketing machine, powering its success.

So is the principal of Open Data by Nike, and their utopian veneer actually flawed? My cynical side considers Open Data by large corporations to be a new angle on guerrilla advertising tactics. But one could argue that any company releasing a grip on its IP monopoly is a step in the right direction.

If you’re keen to take part, I hear Nike are recruiting for an Academic Fellow to help manage their Open Data agenda, so there you have it, the first wrap of red tape.