Ideas Are Universal! Act on Yours Today

I am amazed by the number of stories I read in the media these days, of artistes claiming that other artistes or producers stole their style or beats or songs or lyrics. I do not like to take sides in such matters because it is really difficult to determine who stole from whom. In my opinion, intellectual property cannot really be stolen unless we are talking about piracy of books, videos or music, plagiarism, or the obvious “copy & paste without making any significant changes”, all of which can be prevented. Until you have exclusive rights to it, I do not think it can be called your intellectual property anyway. I don’t care if you sang it in the shower in 1990 or in the studio in 2005 . I believe ideas are like spirits and can appear in more than one place at a time.

I have been trying to register my business with the Corporate Affairs Commission. Yes, I’m getting tired of waking up at 5.a.m every weekday but that’s a story for another day. The first couple of times I searched for a business name they were all taken. I almost cried, to think that some random guy in Enugu was using my most treasured business name.  Names I had thought of since I was in University.  Names I had dreamt about. Names I had not even told a soul. Had they been stolen from my mind or from my dreams?  Not really. Other people had simply come up with the same ideas. If I had started operating with any of those names before thinking of getting it registered, I might have ended up in big trouble for stealing someone’s business name without even knowing it. As much as we like to believe that our ideas are unique and exclusive to us, this is often not the case. As most human inventions are made to fill a void or meet a need, a lot of our ideas are universal and can be conceived by many others, especially those who have similar needs and challenges.

Something happened in an office not far from mine, last year. During the Christmas period, contractors sent proposals to the office advertising varieties of Christmas hampers that could be supplied to clients for a fee. One of the proposals was very original and appealing, what I like to call a “star proposal”. The receptionist was overwhelmed with the volume of proposals they received and dumped them all in a corner, asking Banke, a friend of hers to help with sorting them. Banke came across the “star proposal” and took it away. She tore of the front page which had the details of the contractor, attached her own newly designed front page and took it back to the office. Fortunately for her and tragically for the contractor, Banke got the contract and made a good sum of money. As for how we found out, I’ll keep that a secret. The idea of hampers was probably discovered years ago by someone who gets no credit for it today, but what about the stress of writing that proposal, searching for and listing high-class gift items to arranged in the hamper? What about the cost of printing glossy pictures? A bold watermark on each page might have saved the contactor.

We all are gifted with our individual talents which cannot be taken away from us. However, we need to work on these talents to hone them and make the best out of them. If you come up with an idea which you consider an exceptional breakthrough, guard it with all your might. Read about it. Google is your friend.  Ask questions. Has it been done before? Does it exist? At this stage you must be tactful. Learn to gather the information you need without giving out the actual details. As soon as you discover that your concept is marketable, you need to take legal steps. Speak with a lawyer and take advantage of non-disclosure agreements and copyright, trademark and patent laws. It is cheaper in the long-run and less stressful than trying to file a suit over who stole from whom. You might not win the case. Don’t waste the money you haven’t even made.

Your idea could be a song, a painting or perhaps a new drink. Protect it.  Brand your proposals. Don’t keep blabbing about your idea while someone else is making the dough! Write. Research. Focus. Talk less. Think more. Yes, thank me later. And when the millions start rolling in, don’t forget to pay some into my bank account.

Photo Credit: huffingtonpost.com
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Yinka Ademola is an aspiring author, a PR person, wife and mother-to-be who likes to express herself by writing her thoughts and observations of all sorts, and by cooking! Passionate about transforming Nigeria, she is greatly inspired by its sights and sounds. Find more of her thoughts on Twitter @layinx.

25 Comments on Ideas Are Universal! Act on Yours Today
  • Lizzy O. The DIYLady. November 15, 2013 at 10:14 am

    WORD. You speak truth.

  • Sisi November 15, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Well written!

    sylviachima.blogspot.co.uk

  • Hilda November 15, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I LOVE this article.
    I found the courage to start a business alongside my job. Just baby steps for now though but I know its profitable and yes to not talking too much. Just WORK at it!
    facebook.com/soratulip

  • gbemisola November 15, 2013 at 11:58 am

    10 million likes.. a good wake-up call,

  • Joy Ojo November 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    So true. I’m about to start mine too, the concept came up
    last year, but things have just been so slow. I discovered somebody
    somewhere in Malaysia has come up with my own idea as well. We
    share the same website name but mine is plural. I am just confused,
    but I won’t give up. Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Nomy November 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Am working on my own ideas o! Slowly but surely. Visit my
    blog at
    http://myvividthoughts.wordpress.com/2013/11/15/dancing-at-her-funeral/

  • Changing Faces November 15, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Intellectual property can be stolen… what if you do all
    you have advised and someone still takes it and uses as theirs?
    what’s that called? Salient points well raised… protect yourself
    so you’d have legal recourse

  • St. ed November 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Yes it is true other people come up with the same ideas but
    that doesn’t justify a worker stealing his boss’ idea or work.
    That’s just sheer disrespect. Don Jazzy erred when he didn’t have
    the proper protection to his work…Yes! But saying he can’t claim
    ownership of the song because Wande coal could have had the same
    idea is outrageous. I don’t know what the writer’s point is because
    you can’t compare a business name to an intellectual work like a
    song, book, movie etc. If Wande coal or some other artiste had
    released ‘babyface’ some 50years later, then Don Jazzy wouldn’t
    have had a strong case. However, he released the song just
    immediately he decided to quit Marvins…..isn’t that pure
    copyright? There are artistes all over the world who have released
    songs that were sang 30, 40, 50 years ago and they don’t get sued
    simply because they reinvent the song or give some credit to the
    original songwriter/owner. Overall, my point here is, I agree with
    you on your last paragraph where you highlighted the need for
    proper legal documentation but your initial basis that no
    intellectual property is original and that gives a right for people
    to copy others’ work is flawed….That’s like saying there’s no
    Reward for originality……

  • tobee November 15, 2013 at 3:05 pm

    Get a life! She alredy stated d obvious as pertainin to music,videos piracy of books e.t.c. Wch re exceptions to d point of discussion. I’m sorry but you may ve to read nd digest 1ce again……… Good 1 yinks! Thnks fr al d advice,I’m seriously thnking nd was just writing down the proposal fr my business when ur post came.dis is so timely. God bless u!

  • mostbeautifulgirlin9ja November 15, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Ideas are like winds, it can be perceive by hundreds of people bt the 1st to turn it into a product is regarded as the owner

  • Meet9jasinglesHERE November 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    @changing face, when u register it with the copyright commission, then u can take the other to court. bt the judgement might be gven to d 1st person to register it.

  • mostbeautifulgirlin9ja November 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Ideas are like wind, keep it, hold it, cover it, it wil stil leak out either stolen by sme1 u knw or conceived by sme1 u don’t. So wisdom permit u register it. Thats wisdom

  • Leah November 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I agree that you need to legaly protect what is yours. Although copyright/trademark laws really does not stop people from stealing others’ work. Beyonce steals people work all the time and calls them “inspired”. She copied an entire video including dance, wardrope, hair, set, background, backup dancers and everything else without asking, paying or giving credit to the legal owner. At the end of the day, it is a moral issue but intellectual property can be stolen and often is. When you come up with an ORIGINAL idea, it is your intellectual property. The laws are there to make sure you get what’ coming to you.

  • rootwoo.com November 15, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    When i was a teen, i had this music that i wrote, infact, i sat down and wrote it. With d music in my heart, i was so convinced to go into music. About a year later i ws watching a musical show on tv and i saw a guy frm p.h singing my song. Hw cme, i didn’t tel any1 and if i did there wil be no way of a guy far away in p.h having acces to it. So when i startd my tech coy, the first thing i did was to reg it with NCC. I advice u to do same.

  • Butterfly November 15, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Well said sister!

  • Aramide Ghaniyyah November 16, 2013 at 5:41 am

    Good one. I cant imagine the feeling of going to register a business name i’ve dreamed of and being told it already exists.

  • enny November 16, 2013 at 6:55 am

    Beautiful piece Yinks. It’s wot we ‘kind of know’ (sort of). But a reminder like this jolts u.

  • sidilicious November 16, 2013 at 8:34 am

    Yinx! Am so impressed and thanks for the wake up call. U have mingled well enough with the learned ones and u wrote like a lawyer. I enjoyed everybit of this piece. Am super inspired. Thank u once again!

  • tara November 16, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    well written……bottom line, protect your ideas and act fast!

  • Bhee November 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    this is so true! So many ideas come to my head bur guess
    what, it has already been done. I still go ahead with some and make
    sure I make mine unique and not a copy. I’m sure someone else has
    thought of writing an article on this same topic. lol

  • frances November 17, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    True,true! Thank u,thank u! That’s all!
    http://imperfectlyperfect92.wordpress.com

  • Adesh November 19, 2013 at 11:47 am

    The reminds me of the Samsung and Apple battle, Truth is in the business arena even if you stole the idea but you copyright it first its yours. This is a lesson to budding entrepreneurs…Don’t Take Anything for Granted.

  • funke November 19, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    WORD!!! It is really a wake up call. Thanks for the hindsight.

  • FELIX November 25, 2013 at 8:38 am

    “I believe ideas are like spirits and can appear in more than one place at a time…”
    Quite agreeable with the title of a book ‘Ideas Have Legs’

  • Zainab Murtala November 25, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Well written!!!

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