As many people say, there is no sense in whining about something unless you have a potential remedy. In my last opinion piece titled “Protecting Innovation” in the November issue, I made an argument that small innovation companies are being robbed of their rightful revenue by intellectual property (IP) theft. In this article I will present one potential way to seriously address this issue in a meaningful way. I feel it is simple and uses good judgment and teamwork as the engine.
To recap, I looked at the real cost to innovators and the number of cost savings an IP thief — or, if you prefer, “designer who is inspired” — has to gain by just copying it. Copying groundbreaking innovations typically happens after the innovation has proven itself, and all the hard and costly development work has been completed. I also suggested that there is a general acceptance of this practice and that the first tier of buyers are usually well aware of the IP theft or “inspiration,” and purchase and sell the knock-offs without much fight.
I also described the usual list of research and development (R&D) costs, both time and cash investment, that go into innovating a single product. Honestly, being a copycat is a great business model, because they take someone else’s idea and design and build their copy or “inspired” version after it is proven without having to spend any of the innovator’s costs, while reducing risk substantially as the product is already proven. What do they eliminate? Years of R&D, prototyping, direct sales efforts, training effort, public relations expense, etc.
Not only does the copycatting cost innovators a substantial loss in revenues, the onus now falls on them to spend/lose even more money, usually in legal services, to prove any claim of IP infringement. Meanwhile, the knock-offs have no such costs or risks and can freely cash in without any real obstacles. It isn’t fair but that is business. Or is it?