I learned a valuable lesson a decade ago: There is always what we ‘feel’ is right, and then there is what ‘the law’ defines as right, and ‘the law’ always take precedence. I am actually a big fan of ‘law’ because it challenges people to think of both sides of a story, before coming to a decision, and in doing so highlights how imperfect human beings can be. The Internet brings with it ‘information inundation’, so on any given day when we learn something new, we may believe in that moment that we are all-knowing…until someone else comes along to challenge it. That said, please respect that what I say here is not considered ‘legal counsel or advice’. I have to say that…just because…well…we just have to these days.
Let us start with a basic definition of ‘intellectual property’, as defined by Businessdictionary.com:
- Documented or undocumented knowledge, creative ideas, or expressions of human mind that have commercial (monetary) value and are protectable under copyright, patent, service-mark, trademark, or trade secret laws from imitation, infringement, and dilution. Intellectual property includes brand names, discoveries, formulas, inventions, know-how, registered designs, software, and works of artistic, literary, or musical nature. It is one of the most readily-traded property in the digital marketplace.
General rule of thumb, based on the definition: If your gut instinct is telling you that you may be in fact stealing something, you should not do it. The question we ask ourselves, ‘Is it ok, if I use this?’, means that in your mind you may be aware there is something ‘not right’ about it. Yet, if things were that simple, we would not need lawyers.
Take this example. Did you ever wake up, think of some new idea, write about it, and the next day it seems like a competitor stole your idea? If you are a blogger, you may be used to this; especially if you compete with another company. Does this mean your ‘Intellectual Property’ has been taken? No, because you have to take into account that the information may have already appeared online, and you may doing a similar interpretation. Indeed, being ‘original’ these days is not easy because each of us was taught by someone or something, and these influences are online along side our own personal discovery.
To know more about how your Intellectual Property is protected, please click here.