Movember and Materialism
Published on 12.01.10
Growing Moustaches in November is a concept. It is an idea. It is not ownable. There is no IP in a concept. Not a drop…
…unless you reduce it to material form. You see, you cannot copyright a concept or register an idea. You can’t show these things to your lawyer or your mum. You cannot hide them under your mattress or reveal them from behind a red velvety curtain. Your dog can’t even eat them. Because they are inside your head and a head is a useless place for your IP to be. BUT, call this concept MOVEMBER, create a logo and register the URL. Now we’re talking. The idea has found material form, a form that somebody can own (and I bet you wish that somebody was you…).
I love materialistic creative types. I’m not referring here to ambitious, driven capitalists who seek to wring every last penny out of the Original Works they create. I love them too. Instead though, I’m talking about anyone who reduces their work to MATERIAL FORM. Why? Because, it’s a legal requirement in order to have copyright in any thing that it is, in the first place, a thing. In this regard and despite recent controversy, exhibit A is: Movember.
The bottom line is that you cannot own copyright in an idea, no matter how brilliant it is. (Sadly this is true, even if you post it to your Myows account). You cannot own any idea unless you act upon it. The upside though is this: if you are smart, there are many other ways of creating copyrightable artifacts from your idea and hence generating and protecting real IP, the kind you CAN protect (again, preferably on Myows). Building a brand around it – as illustrated by the Movember example – is just one such approach.
You know that mid-range face cream you buy with strengthamide and Liftolene B? These are clearly not textbook compounds, at least there weren’t until the guys that make the cream came up with them. But the name gives ownable form to a good idea. In fact, in many cases you’ll find that ingredient brands like these actually refer to very not-ownable things like vitamin C and Caffeine. The idea of putting them in a face cream may be great, revolutionary even, but there is nothing to stop the next girl/guy doing the same thing. That is, unless you put effort into building a brand around the idea. A brand that you can own. It’s one reason why big companies often trademark random words to represent innovations that are too simple to patent… and they’re big because they do smart things like that.
Can we, the little guys, be smart too? Yes we can. Let me use another from my day job at Engage Brandcraft. Last year we came up with a very good idea for a very bland local airline. The idea was truly great but it wasn’t ownable and, naturally, we wanted to address this before presenting it to their marketing board. Our response to this problem was to find a truly excellent name and register it. We also uploaded our logo work to Myows and reserved every possible related URL. Basically, we created the best possible brand that we could around this idea. And it was awesome. Only then did we take the whole deal to them and present it as a package of things to which we did own the IP. Did they buy it? No. But we still owned it and, recently, we sold it to somebody else.
Creating a compelling brand around a good idea is an excellent way to reduce it to material form (and, quite frankly, it doesn’t even have to be your idea). Essentially you’re tying an ethereal concept to something tangible. You’re creating real value, real property which you can then claim ownership over and, in my eyes (and those of the law), that makes you more than just materialistic. That makes you smart. And hopefully one day, it’ll make you rich too.