Incite by Design

Caustic visions and shared thoughts on design, marketing, creativity, philanthropy, pop culture and business philosophy by Toronto design firm, Ricksticks Inc.

2005-02-16

Yours, Mine, Ours - The Battle over Ideas

We are in the midst of numerous copyright/trademark battles. You read about it all the time. Monsanto sues farmers. MegaGames 'Jack Ass' sues 'Jack Ass' the show. McDonalds sues MacNoodles. Law firms devote their entire practice to issues of copyright and trademark protection.

I agree that out-and-out ripping off is wrong. I don't like the idea of someone stealing my writing verbatim and repackaging it as their own (though it has happened) and I am sure Rick would be a little more than miffed if his hard work and efforts to create someone's identity was lifted by a competitor.

Some situations are fairly clear cut, I'd say.

But I have a limit to the concept of what is "mine." For example, I may mention quite a few ideas that I have had in relation to, say, rebranding strategy or business development. My thinking is this, if someone gets something out of the concept and wishes to expand upon it, great. That, to me, is the point of information - to be shared, expanded upon, and reflected in the creation of my identity as a participant in community, business, and life.

In fact, I encourage idea stealing when the purpose is to facilitate more discussion. I am not married to my ideas because, chances are, someone else has had them, too. To patent my dialogue is absurd.

If I come up with a product based on a series of ideas, I may or may not choose to ensure rights. Likely not, though.

Maybe I am old fashioned - but I do believe that my ideas are better when reconstructed and discussed. The addition of voices and even conflict adds to the depth and flavor of what I am able to offer in service to others. If someone wants to write like me, well let them. Does this take away from what I offer? Perhaps. But it also forces me to be better, to rethink strategy and continue to grow. This is one solution for stopping impending monopolies - more competition.

I am reminded of a wonderful anecdote about John Winthrop, a famous Puritan and colonist...

In a hard and long winter, when wood was very scarce at Boston, a man gave him [Winthrop] private information that a needy person in the neighborhood stole wood sometimes from his pile;whereupon the governor in a seeming anger did reply, "Does he so ? I'll take a course with him; go, call that man to me; I'll warrant you I'll cure him of stealing." When the man came, the governor considering that if he had stolen, it was more out of necessity than disposition, said unto him, "Friend, it is a severe winter, and I doubt you are but meanly provided for wood; wherefore I would have you supply your self at my wood-pile till this cold season be over." And he then merrily asked his friends, " Whether he had not effectually cured this man of stealing his wood?"


Situations relating to information theft are not so dire as to warrant the theft. However, I believe that my time is better spent continuing to improve upon that which I offer and the person I am, then concentrating on whether or not someone is emulating me in some manner without permission.

The identity of a business rests with its people. We are Ricksticks. If someone else were to open up Ricksticks Marketing under the radar, I could hardly care. Good luck to them - It's a tough industry.
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