Oh wow, totally forgot to link my post to your question...
What I was trying to say is that I doubt big name companies like K2, Atomic, or Salomon are selling the licenses of a ski model to smaller companies so they can build them. It's relatively simple to design a ski (well that's all subjection but at the core of it all in my opinion it is...) so I doubt that is happening.
And yes, all companies will have some level of R&D, which doesn't have to be crazy expensive either. You can spend like crazy on R&D or spend very little on R&D.
Here are two examples of some R&D:
Just some crazy experimentation from the guys over at ON3P. Here is a thread on them:
I guess you could more or less call this radical experimentation; trying something outside of the box to see if it works.
Eric Pollard's Pro Model:
EPOV: A Decade of Ski Development with Eric Pollard from Line Skis on Vimeo.
And this would be a more practical form of R&D, most of what goes on in the industry today (from what I know) It just consists of making minor and major tweaks to a ski from year to year, and building on it each year based on rider feedback. The hellbent is a really good example of this if you've known any of this history of that ski.
Hopefully that brings it all together and makes more sense!
secret fucking SNOWBALL mission...
Chaitea, "The best gloves are mittens."
Park Guy, "Everytime it snows my dick takes a beating."