Dids CP 022

– How can they protect themselves from theft?

By Dids Macdonald, CEO of ACID (Anti Copying in Design)

In what seems an interminable “grey bulb lifetime”, policy makers have at last realised that we are no longer a nation of shopkeepers, we are a nation of entrepreneurial originators or “ideapreneurs” as BDI’s Maxine Horn (link ) so aptly describes those of us who earn our living by idea generation. The UK has now transformed into a credible knowledge economy with thousands of us using our brains, our minds and our intellectual capacity to a greater or lesser degree to translate ideas into tradable propositions.  So much so that the Creative Industries contribute to the UK’s GDP pot by some £120 billion pounds and rising. The term Creative Industry is an anomaly in itself because we have the intangible, “creative” (inventive, original, ingenious, inspired, and artistic) i.e. idea generation partnered with “industry” (manufacturing, business, commerce, trade, engineering, production). Both are interdependent on each other and form the intrinsic value, the intellectual capital that resides under successful brands (whether micro or mega) within this sector.

And so there seems to be a gigantic fault line, or chasm,  in Government policy making which does not recognise or support the notion that ideas alone have a value, only their tangible form and therefore protectable under intellectual property law. We see this enshrined in current IP law where there is no abstract right to protect an idea and yet it can be protectable by the manifestation of that idea into a 2d or 3d format. But what happens in between the seed of an idea and market reality? In the journey or “route to market” often the knowledge provider or original thinker’s know how is pinched and adopted by another for their own commercial gain. Thus far there has been a fierce reluctance to develop anti competitive laws. But why? Surely we should be guarding our competitive edge, generated through ideas now more than ever?    

We don’t think twice about paying for other professional advice from more traditional routes. If we go to one of the hallowed silver circle of IP lawyers, there will be little change out of several hundred pounds per hour and those who can afford to pay rarely bat an eyelid. Somehow paying for advice means it’s worth it. In the same way those who seek advice from a professional consultant in another sphere will do so on the clear understanding that they will pay for another’s knowledge. So why not Professional Originators? In the current culture of valuing creative thinkers (being only one above yodelling experts at the moment), passing off others ideas under one’s own carefully recrafted cloak is fair game. Responding to a pitch or tender, only to find a distilled version making someone-else’s headlines is rife and creative input is often viewed as a “real opportunity” to share innovative ideas and network with those supposed key influencers whose fresh ideas are stale.    

So what is the solution? Idea generators need to value their creativity more, those who collaborate to help germinate ideas into tangible tradable commodities should show more respect for IP originators and, in time, it is hoped that policy makers will make a paradigm shift in their thinking by regarding idea entrepreneurs as Professional Originators. If this is to succeed it will combine impetus and a joined up approach from The Treasury, BIS and the Ministry of Justice. The former’s lack of IP generated tax incentives at best, disappointing and the latter’s scant regard for exemplary damages for IP theft, remarkable.

In his appraisal of the current IP climate for creative thinkers, Nick Kounoupias, ACID Lobby’s Chief Counsel said, “It’s not just political history that tends to repeat itself but also IP legislative history. Time and time again important sounding groups or committees are set up to investigate IP, lengthy reports and consultation papers are issued and detailed recommendations are published. But time and time again the recommendations get stuck in a political quagmire and do not see the light of day. The lot of designers has been particularly unhappy and it is difficult to see what financial incentive there can be for a designer to make a living from designs and idea generation without adequate enforcement tools.”

Interestingly, for 2010 the (WIPO) World Intellectual Property Day theme this year (its 10th Anniversary) is Innovation – Linking the World! Unless there is an upgrading of the value of the ideas generating population, innovation stands to be compromised by the growing and seemingly accepted notion of ideas theft.   Whilst current IP policy urges originators to register their intellectual property to protect the intellectual capital in their business, this does not go hand in hand with a cost and time effective enforcement policy. The stark reality is that most micro enterprises and SME’s haven’t a hope of redressing their own intellectual property theft whether it is tangible or intangible – a current status quo which is woefully out of date with the pace at which ideas are fuelling progression in the 21c. Inevitably innovation will be one of the key drivers in local and global economic recovery, it’s about time we recognised this and put a value on the ideas generated by Professional Originators.

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