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Open Innovation Myth #4 - you will be accused of stealing other people's ideas

Mon, 07/19/2010 - 14:09 -- admin

All organizations understand and value Intellectual Property. Open Innovation has an impact on IP, and it can be negative unless it’s managed properly.

One example is being accused of stealing other people’s ideas. Many companies have introduced schemes to advertise and attract inventions and ideas from outside their organizations. These include Innovate with Kraft, Connect and Develop from Procter & Gamble and, of course, RB-Idealink.com from Reckitt Benckiser. If somebody approaches you with an idea, then you subsequently exploit something similar because you were already working on it, you can be accused of plagiarism. This can have a bad PR effect with the big bad company taking advantage of the poor defenceless inventor. This situation hardly ever happens in reality, but….. Some companies have decided to simply refuse any unsolicited proposals. Well, it’s one way to avoid the risk, but it also avoids any opportunity.

Why not put safeguards in place? The www.rb-idealink.com website is a good example. RB ask people submitting ideas to state that the invention is their property, they are free to propose it, and that they acknowledge that RB may already be working on something similar. It is then up to the company to state in any reply whether similar ideas have been evaluated in the past, without specifying the details.

It is important to have good discipline in the company so people document ideas and decisions. You don’t need unwieldy corporate databases, just common sense. That way you can defend yourself in the highly unlikely situation that legal action is taken. Any ideas that are already in the public domain – and you can prove it – are “fair game”, even from your competitors, and don’t let false internal pride stop you from exploiting them.

Finally, remember that instances of legal action for plagiarism are very, very rare. It’s worth the tiny risk for the potentially big return. If you’re still not sure – call us.

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