We all know as practitioners that a great idea cannot be protected. Yet- a book or document including the description of the idea, a video telling the story, a power point or a photo-all become works protected by COPYRIGHT. One of the main ideas behind Copyright protection is to create a balance between protection of the creator’s assets on the one hand, and to apply protection of free speech and free creativity on the other. As copyrights protect a work and not an idea, our clients at times are disappointed when told by us that their idea, as brilliant and as original as it is, cannot be protected. We then offer them a solution that is not full proof, yet valuable to translate the idea into a work.
The work itself is protected but cannot prevent competitors from translating the idea into a different work and in order to try and sell the idea and compete in the same market. Does this mean that there are no other ways to try and help the creator of the idea, to make the best of it and be ahead of his competitors? Well- there are ways to help the idea creator, by making the work that describes and includes the idea a safe home for it.
For a work to become a safe home for an idea- it has to describe it in a detailed way. The work should become a story of the idea from as many angles as possible, using as many descriptions of it as possible. Such a work will cause the public and/or the clients to become attached to the work, and through that to the idea. When this is the case, the competitors are tempted to provide the public with what the public wants. The more parts of the work describing the idea that will be copied by the competitors – the bigger the chance that a court will rule it as a copyright infringement.
An example of a famous literary idea that has made a work it’s safe home, is the story of Romeo and Juliette. If Shakespeare were alive today – there is a chance that West Side Story would be considered a copyright infringement. The idea of a tragic romance between two people form two sides of a war, battle of fight can be used by anyone. The work Shakespeare created, telling the st story of the idea- two young people, two families that hate each other, a tragic death of the young woman’s brother caused by the young man, the young man’s death by members of the woman’s family – are all parts of the work, that if not written hundreds of years ago would be protected by COPYRIGHTS.
An idea for a business system cannot be protected. A book with a detailed description of the system, its stages, and examples of using it- is protected. Can competitors of the idea creator, use the system? If the idea includes approaching clients, approaching certain people that hold certain positions within the clients, offering these clients certain prices and or terms of sale – competitors of the idea creator cannot be stopped from conducting themselves in the same way. Yet- the competitors cannot use texts within the book, cannot use names given to each of the stages if they are original, cannot use the same examples of conducting business as given in the book and cannot use directions written for the sales persons or a training program written for the system within the book or within manuals. All of the above means that a competitor will need to invest time and money in preparing all these works, to be able to compete against the idea creator (or whoever by this time has bought the works describing it from him), and the chance for unfair competition is much smaller.
We are witnessing an era of content competition. The first businesses to use the internet had a competitive edge on others. After that, the first to enter the Social media marketing world had a head start – reaching more people in additional tools. Today- most businesses are online and most of them use social media tools. The difference between them is very much in their ability to produce competitive content. This content is protected by Intellectual Property tools including Trademarks, Designs, and Copyright. Trademarks and Designs are at the base of the branding of these businesses- but the Copyrights are the tools protecting the ideas. Causing the public and/or the clients to like the stories told by the businesses about their services or products will help prevent them from choosing to work with competitors. Each idea should have a safe home within a story- as each story can be protected by Copyrights. The story helps create the Copyrights and if needed later in court proceedings on the issue of infringement- is the evidential foundation of the case.
The best news about the Content era is – that Copyright protection happens to be the least costly and least complex IP tool. Anyone can tell a story, anyone can record it in the way they choose and anyone can make sure that the story is updated constantly to safeguard the idea and to be a detailed and a correct mirror of it. We need not take for granted our client’s knowledge of the treasures of Copyright protection. We need to introduce or to remind them of this tool, and encourage them to use it for their benefit.
Penned by Rachel Pasher Eijkenaar of Mazliach-law