IP and Outsourcing Design [3:17 pm]
But outsourcing design has also brought an array of troubling implications. For one thing, critics say, a certain sameness creeps into products when competitors turn to the same specialists for designs.
[...] David Reid, chair of international business at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s College of Business, raises a potentially more worrisome issue. “The question of who owns the intellectual property remains a very muddy one,” he said.
Most manufacturers insist on written guarantees that designers working on their projects will not do similar work for competitors. But the designers counter that they can create low-cost, high-quality products only by building on every bit of expertise they develop.
[...] That kind of expertise is hard to patent, or to own. And even third-party designers concede that intellectual property fights could derail their fledgling industry.
“The intellectual property issue remains the most complicated thing we have to deal with,” said Pat Toole, general manager of I.B.M. Engineering and Technology Services. “If we can all figure it out, farming out design will be a common model in the future. If we can’t, it won’t.”