He explained that the '60s and '70s were when the world's biggest enterprises - that is, IBM, Xerox (XRX), HP (HPQ), Ford (F) and GM (GM) -- realized even they could ill afford the costs of developing broad new technologies from scratch.
"R&D became so expensive that firms created a barrier between what was a differentiated product and what was general knowledge," he said. "The differentiated product you invested heavily in protecting. The cost of developing what was general was what you shared with your competitors."
What Bergelt and OIN do, Emde said, is take the shared-cost concept into software development. And since this is the digital age, that concept tests the limits of logical possibilities.
Yea, that kind of big
First off, Bergelt and OIN now control a simply astounding swath of intellectual property terrain.
Emde, Bergelt and without exception everyone else I spoke with on this topic made it clear that open-source software is not Karl Marx's dream shot at a comeback. "This is not communism 2.0," Emde told me emphatically. Even so, there is no denying the sheer scale of the intellectual property holdings of operations such as OIN -- and the growing continents of intellectual property controlled essentially in commons. Which of course, affects valuation in dramatic and terrifying ways. Think about it. If all the world's blue chip companies do is to control the mere public-facing sliver of the intellectual property behind their products, pretending they own all the commonly held terrain behind that storefront is risky investing stuff indeed. Cooperation is not communism. But for investors, it might turn out to be just as dangerous.