The following blog was written and published on LinkedIn by a customer of ours, Berris Charnley. https://www.linkedin.com/in/berris-charnley/
"You should be able to fix the machines you buy. This idea has been gaining ground in recent years under the banner of the right to repair movement. Repair and maintenance are interesting cousins of intellectual property. They operate on the same boundaries of remaking and making, openness and closedness, and sharing or protecting ideas.
Various figures have emerged to champion the idea that repair is a right, they range from journalist/author Cory Doctrow <https://pluralistic.net/> and computer technician Louis Rossman, <https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl2mFZoRqjw_ELax4Yisf6w> who point to the fortresses being constructed around big tech using intellectual property; fortresses that make it harder and harder to fix a laptop, over to Tesla rebuilders <https://www.vice.com/en/article/qvm3z5/rich-rebuilds-tesla-repair-and-salvage> and tractor maintainers <https://www.wired.com/story/john-deere-farmers-right-to-repair/>. As tech-focused news media such as Vice and WIRED have covered these stories the narrative is often told as one of evil corporations, looking to use secrecy, patents and sealed units to stop rebel repairers from fixing their own devices. The strong impression that this telling creates is that customer repairs are bad for business.
But what happens when companies encourage repairs? Is it true, as Louis Rossman puts it, that, “You will not go out of business if you share with other people how you did a repair”? I recently had to fix a coffee machine. I’ve been using the same Gaggia Classic for nearly 12 years and it started to leak. I got in touch with Gaggia Direct <https://www.gaggiadirect.com/>, my local UK Gaggia distributer. Surprisingly I was invited to have a zoom call with the company’s owner. He talked me through the fault, gave me a likely diagnosis, and then told me where I could buy the gasket I would need. The website he directed me to – Mr Bean to Cup <https://www.mrbean2cup.co.uk/> – provided blowup schematics with details of the gasket. With the new part in hand, I went back to Gaggia Direct’s website where there were links to instructional videos to help me with the installation.
What was happening here? Gaggia Direct has taken an explicit decision to enable people to do repairs for themselves. Their thinking is that trusting their customers will help their customers to trust them. My own experience points to a couple of additional benefits. As I attempted the repair it immediately became obvious that while it might have seemed simple, there was a lot of know-how that I was missing. Various threads had seized, and it wasn’t entirely obvious, even following along with an instructional video, how much pressure to put where, or what was important. The experience of attempting the repair myself strengthened my respect for the Gaggia Direct technicians’ expertise. And thinking more deeply about trust, I had found myself dealing with a company that was willing to help me try and keep a 12-year-old machine running. When that machine eventually dies, I want to buy from a company that will help me keep the next machine running this long. In summary Gaggia Direct has chosen to have a better relationship with its customers because they think that will be better for their business. Speaking personally that seems to be a good decision and the company’s reviews on Google and Trust Pilot suggest that other customers feel the same way.
On a more theoretical level the Gaggia Direct example points to something that intellectual property scholars have been suggesting for a long time: registering and working strong intellectual property is only one of several business strategies and it is not one that every business manager sees as important and useful. More generally, the Gaggia Direct case points to the benefits of maintaining an open relationship to knowledge and adds an interesting extra wrinkle of complexity to the right to repair story. Opening up is something some businesses are choosing to do themselves, precisely because this way of operating seems more profitable. Finally, the Gaggia Direct example points to the importance of know-how. It is not just the technical specifications which matter, but also the expertise which goes around them. This is a point of direct relevance to several intellectual property focused debates ranging from discussions of the Tesla patents to the Covid TRIPS waiver. Making the intellectual property available, whether that is schematics from patent filings or sequence information, is only the start of the process of knowledge transfer.
Hello, my name is Raj Beadle. I am the author of this blog. I am the owner and managing director of Caffe Shop Ltd - Gaggia UK. We represent Gaggia spa in the UK and are the exclusive distributor of Gaggia in the UK. We also directly retail via our website www.gaggiadirect.com and also through our own retail shops.