Protect your ideas

I said I would let you know how to protect your ideas.
The first thing is to value them. If you don't are are willing to give them away for free, then it will be fair for anybody else to appropriate them. You put an idea into the public domain if you are casual about who you tell.

The second thing to do is indicate your proprietorship of your idea. If you are going to share it with others - say you invent a product that helps people to pick up doggy doos on the beach and in other public places and need to find a manufacturer to licence the concept then you should insist they sign a non-disclosure agreement. If they are unwilling to do that, then don't show them anything but a clean pair of heels. If they will quibble in the beginning they will quibble throughout the process. Don't be paranoid, be prudent.

Make sure you indicate your copyright on the concept. It might sound a little cheesy - I remember wondering why big clients insisted on wrecking my layouts and making my copy look naff by insisting in TM and © plastered 'everywhere'. What I didn't understand at the time was the value of brands and the need to protect them. The other day I heard an interview on the radio in the car with some marketing person or other; the interviewer suggested it was a good thing that your brand name becomes 'common parlance'. Tell that to 3M or Xerox (or Google for that matter). I'll say it once more: if you don't value your ideas and intellectual property - why should anybody else?

It is important to remember that copyright is yours automatically for works you create. There are some confusing variations. If you work for an advertising agency the as writer, designer or art director for hire then the copyright belongs to the entity that commissions your work. You should be clear in any case what terms of your contract is. Photographers and illustrators are very good at protecting their IP - check out the terms and conditions on their contracts.

There is a myth that for a trademark to offer protection from misappropriation it must be registered. IN New Zealand at least, that is not true. If you consitently identify your brand names as trademarks owned by you. If you can show prior and consistent use by you you should be able to defend your property. Registration is useful too, but for some people the costs may be high.

By the way, if you are employed in a creative role I think you should be developing ideas of your own outside of work - something you can be paid for in perpetuity (books, music, product designs, web businesses), one day someone will undercut your pay rate or seem fresher and more fun than you to have around. Seems a shame to have talent and squander it as a kept man/person - don't you think?


  1. Anonymous2:27 pm

    Oddly, I'm finding the best protection for my ideas I can see is to A) share them, and B) license them with a permissive open license that ISN'T copyleft - that puts your IP philosophy out there quite clearly, and helps with the showing of prior(ity) work.

    So, for development code, I'm looking at 3-clause BSD and for creative ideas, generally CC-BY-ND, or even CC-BY-NC-ND and retaining copyright to re-license commercial.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts