Click here to read a French translation of this article.
It’s time to clarify an important point about Open Source.
We believe in all the virtues of open source, but because of its limitations, we decided not to embrace that path. We are explaining here our model.
The common understanding is that one can open source anything if the know-how is shared without intellectual property rights, without ownership and therefore without patents. In our field, most of the solar cookers for example had their plans for free in open source for decades for people to build. Recently, we saw some models being manufactured for those willing to purchase ready made units. And this is great. But unfortunately, the scale-up and impact of this approach has been very slow. That is why we have developed a more powerful solar oven for people to start commercial food processing activities and make their living with it. So we got busy and we soon understood that open source would not solve the last mile distribution issue, it would not guarantee the quality of our product, it would not protect our technical roadmap, and it would not bring the visibility that’s needed to make a real difference on climate change. Most of all, it would not make a significant difference to most users of the tech.
Still, the open source spirit has played a big role in the development of our model to maximize the spread of Lytefire and its impact. We love its generosity, the openness, the fundamental access it provides. But open source didn’t start for hardware, it started for software, texts and artwork, and hardware is fundamentally different from that.
Artwork, texts and software are naturally protected by copyright, and the open source licenses are in essence removing the copyright protection that is given. Very interesting free licenses have been created, such as the GPL and CC.
But hardware innovations are not protected by copyrights and must be applied for protection by patenting. So one would first have to gain protection through a patent, and then remove the protection gained through this patent to open source the innovation. Otherwise, if you simply publish your innovation without protection, there is a risk that someone else succeeds in patenting the innovation and then completely prevents the proliferation of this tech (it is called patent trolling and many great innovations are stuck there). At Lytefire, we did not take that risk, because our solar technology is one of the game changers that should not be stopped.
Therefore, we had to define our own model for our impact company. We believe the more the community grows, the stronger Lytefire’s unique model will be, and the more impact we can all have together, on our own terms. In other words, we are currently achieving the goals of open source in a more realistic way to scale up Lytefire for the greater good.
How can we serve everybody generously, without Open Source?
Our model is meant to include everyone, including DIYers and Artisans who are often disregarded by industry. In that sense, we are probably the first energy company to offer the same innovation that we sell as products at the same time for DIYers. Of course there are differences in the designs for DIYers and those for Artisans and industrial producers, because the fabrication tools, methods and environments aren’t the same and we have the software to optimize for industry. So we do this because we believe that everyone needs to be involved in the climate and social transition. DIYers push the possibilities and awareness. Entrepreneurs, eco-places, farmers, hotels (see picture showing the latest Lytefire solar sauna) and schools just want to buy their Lytefire at the best price and this is an opportunity for producers of all kinds (artisanal and industrial). NGOs want to create jobs, empower women and youths in vulnerable countries and equip refugees, so we provide our educational training to them.
Everyone can now get a Lytefire and that’s our purpose.
No idealism, just realism.
We’ll be happy to read your constructive comments.
Join us by getting a Lytefire, building yourself, educating others or with one of our licenses. There is an active hub with different forums and lots of resources for those interested. Click here to learn more about all the different users of Lytefire.