Sorry, But You Don’t Own Your Ideas

You can’t own your ideas.  Sorry, but it’s true.  You can patent an invention, copyright a work of art, trademark a name or phrase, but you can’t own an idea.  Once you put it out there, it’s out there.  Remember this when you start a business.  Sure, you can use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to protect yourself when talking about an idea with a vendor or adviser, but once you get your business up and going, you open yourself up to competition that will copy your idea.  If it is a good idea, you can count on this.  100%.

I was reminded about this on my vacation, when I had a bad experience trying to buy some clothes for my daughters.  I was in a store that sold cute tye-died clothes for kids. I was without my wife and since I would not be able to return them later, I didn’t dare make a purchase without approval.  A factor of success is knowing what you do and don’t do well, and for me, clothes and fashion are definitely an outsource to wife thing.  What I usually do in this situation, is take pictures with my phone, send them to her, and she gives the thumbs up or down. This is a very efficient process for us.

So when I started taking pictures, I was approached by one of the owners of the store who confronted me rudely and told me I couldn’t take pictures in her store.  I explained what I was doing, and that I was trying to make some purchases.  I wanted to spend some money there!  She replied that people were taking pictures of their designs and copying them, and selling them on the internet.  So they don’t let people take pictures anymore.  She became more rude, and I smiled, and said that I have worked as hard as I was willing, to spend money in her store.  I thanked her for her time, and left.  The funny thing is that she probably felt a sense of accomplishment for having stopped a usurper, instead of regret for losing money.

Talk about doesn’t get it.  You can’t stop people from stealing your ideas.  You need to implement them better.  You need to be online, if that is where people are looking for what you have (and they are!)  If you establish an online presence and have strong brand awareness, when people rip off your ideas they will be seen as rip-offs.  If someone can improve on your product, offer easier delivery or distribution, or even just market better than you, then they will steal your market share.  Deal with it.

You can’t stop it anymore than you can stop the rain, but you can prepare for it, just the same.  Learn about marketing.  Stay up on the new trends in communication and networking like facebook and twitter.  The only way to maintain market dominance is to earn it.  Having the idea is never enough.  You have to implement it better than your competitors.  If someone is ripping you off don’t stand for it, tell the world about!  But don’t just say you’re being ripped off, tell everyone why you are better.  Always look for ways to improve.

Sometimes a little competition can expand your market and if you are truly better, and you market well, those newcomers to your market will find you.  Don’t waste too much energy trying to protect your great idea.  Spend it trying it improve it.

I want to know what you think.  What part of your product or service is so unique it can’t be duplicated?  How do you stand apart from the competition?

3 replies
  1. Hit Man says:

    Wow! Thanks for this article. I have seen this very thing (Not Own Your Ideas) happen all around the city I live in. But never put the 2 & 2 together until reading this article by Ian Gordon. Now I see how having a good or even great idea and being complacent will eventually leave one looking to makeup lost ground.

    Thanks again,
    Hit Man

  2. Ian Gordon says:

    True about complacency. People in sales use the farming metaphor. Even if you have a bumper crop, if you are not constantly planting more seeds, and nurturing them, you will eventually be looking at an empty field.

  3. Imperator Phil says:

    I can’t stand the notion of intellectual property. People are always going to copy each other, it comes down to what the market will bear. If I make a block of aluminum look like an upside down triangle with a vagina in the middle, and someone else comes along and does the same thing for far cheaper, then they beat me. Using government violence to back up my claim to an idea would be coercion, not market success.


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