The meaning of the word "crowdsourcing" may still be unknown to many people. Despite such, there is a great chance that a person, or even a company, has already taken part in a "crowdsourcing" without having a clear understanding of its definition and significance. Those persons and companies are in fact already part of the most modern form of disseminating knowledge and developing new technologies.
The word "crowdsourcing" is better understood as a portmanteau word formed by a blend of the words "crowd" and "source". Hence it literally means "the source in the crowd." If place in the context of innovation, this word represents the development of, and solution to, several technological issues solved in a shared manner and by unspecific individuals making up a crowd, a collectivity.
In the past, companies invested exclusively in their research and development centers and had the duty to solve problems and create new technologies "in the domestic level." The world changed as well as the needs of consumers/clients and the speed of the technological evolution. As a consequence, companies started noticing that they could and should identify their deficiencies and search for solutions with their own consumers or third parties, who, away from the day-to-day routine of the company or having a specific knowledge, expertise and competence might contribute. The power of those combined contributions started to be strategic for the innovation.
Hence, the previous innovation paradigm was broken and a revolution was started. Evidently, the Internet and the social networking only contributed and reinforced even further this process, however, it is worth highlighting that the "crowdsourcing" may be conducted and used by any means or media as, for instance, newspapers, technical publications, television, radio, to mention just a few.
The form how the "crowdsourcing" will be used and the benefit that will be obtained from that use are directly connected with its innovation strategy and intellectual property management. Before, the protection and form of the intellectual property use were essentially based on the constraint on the use of those rights by any non-authorized third parties. Today, we see more the development of a strategy for the intellectual property use in different forms simultaneously after the optimization of the innovation achieved with the "crowdsourcing".
This way, the search for solutions and a definition of how to achieve satisfactory results may be considered a company's "crowdsourcing" strategy.
It is important to understand that is not enough that a company advertises and creates a campaign requesting the crowd's collaboration with a certain matter without first understanding very well the company's purposes and how it intends to deal with the collaborations. The strategy chosen will guide the continuous collaborations of third parties towards what companies intend to solve, create or improve.
How the company will treat the ownership of the creation, the payments, if any, and the confidentiality of the project, for instance, are issues that must be defined in advance and make part of the strategy. Hence, where the collaborator is involved with the development of a certain project or technology, the rules must be clearly defined and agreed and the relevant agreements must be executed.
In addition, in providing the guidelines, the company must act as a facilitator for the collective contribution, but in no event should it restrict the creation, even if that certain contribution fails to meet the intended expectations at that certain time. This way, contributions must be encouraged, including with the possibility of prizes or even participation in the results achieved.
In this regard, it is worth mentioning the global Web community for open innovation called InnoCentive (vide www.innocentive.com), which is recognized as one of the precursors of the "crowdsourcing". Several companies send projects to that global Web community, which, in turn, attempts to act as a facilitator for those looking for a solution.
Enabling this partnership of continuous collaboration in such a global level is a challenge that companies and legal advisors have ahead of themselves and that most certainly will produce positive results.
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