Ressources internes

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RADMA 2021

Corbel, P. et Kadji-Ngassam, M. « The role of trademarks in the open source software industry: Insights from 3 case studies », R&D Management Conference, en ligne, juillet 2021


The appropriability regime (Teece, 1986) of open source software is particularly weak. Open source publishers cannot use IP rights to exclude competitors as soon as they accept to apply the same open source principles. Although some contributions show that part of the open source software companies mix open source principles with proprietary software publishers' practices (e.g. West, 2003, O’Mahony, 2007, Casadesus-Masanell & Llanes, 2011), it does not explain how other actors who want to respect them more accurately can profit from their innovations.

In the context of a doctoral research on business models of open source software publishers, trademarks / brands appeared to be at the core of the business model of each of the studied actors. Paradoxically, the literature on open source software does not pay much attention to trademarks. Moreover, the status of trademarks is ambiguous: it is sometimes cited as an element of the appropriapibility regime (Teece, 2006, Hermelinna-Laukkanen & Ritala, 2012) whereas reputation (Teece, 1992) or brands (Fischer & Henkel, 2013) are sometimes considered as complementary assets.

This paper proposes an analysis of the role of trademarks based on three case studies: a collective R&D project supported by public funds, a big project (OpenOffice) and a small open source software publisher (XWiki). These case studies are based on 59 interviews complemented by participation to open source events and the analysis of written documents. The data was analysed through content analysis using NVivo.

Trademarks appear to be a key strategic asset in each of those three cases. We show that trademarks are used as complementary assets in interaction with the developers community rather than as a means to strengthen the appropriability regime. We also unveil some key elements to try to prevent conflicts and lead to a virtuous circle between reputation, community development, and value creation.

Ressources externes

Site web de RADMA (Research And Development Management Association).



L'auteur et webmaster de ce site est Pascal Corbel, Professeur en sciences de gestion et du management à l'Université Paris-Saclay.

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