You and Thought Crime: A Beginner’s Guide

You don’t know about the value of ideas until you think you have one that’s jackpot money. Everything up until that point is the same as anything else: up for grabs. And the reality is, it really is up for grabs. Cause guess what? It’s nigh impossible to patent an “idea” in America.

Getting Your Brain Wet

So that ‘revolutionary’ app idea you had this morning? Easy pickings. Have an invention you think’s gonna have those Ad men jumping up and down on late night TV? Hawk it carefully. No, this is not a quick lesson how to have naughty thoughts à la 1984. This is a taste of what goes on at the center of last year’s acclaimed Social Network – the ease and prevalence of Thought Theft.

Getting at Ideas

Let’s face it. If people were able to patent ideas, you’d still be driving in a Ford Model T, 2012 edition. It doesn’t allow for the clever kind of competition that we have in this Bill Gates and Steve Jobs world.

What does that mean? First of all, your “idea” usually has to have some kind of application already that’s highly visible in its uniqueness to impress the patent office. Software, for example (like that winning app you thought of) follows this criteria, and is surrounded by debate, including:

-Where the boundary between patentable and non-patentable software should lie
-Whether the inventive step and non-obviousness criteria is applied too loosely
-Whether patents covering software discourage, rather than encourage, innovation.

This also means you can steal someone’s idea without much legal repercussion – unless you’re obviously infringing on something that has mad development and application already behind it. So, before you start calling up people at 9 in the morning telling them your world changing idea, don’t bother calling your lawyer. You’ll need a lot of bread first. Why? Pretty much how much money’s been sunk into the thing makes it more valuable.

Swipe When the Time is Ripe

So where does a thought criminal start?

First of all, hang up your balaclava. You’re not going to need it. Instead, trade it in for a snazzy white dinner jacket. You’re going to be doing a lot of talking (plus, only the best kind of swindling happens in dress attire).

Next, penetrate circles of the creative class. If you already participate in these circles, it shouldn’t be too hard. If not, bring some Adderall. Do some, and share the rest. Make sure to have a constant flow of this. It will be your currency, like cigarettes in prison. The more alcohol and Adderall you feed a creative, the greater his powers of creative reception. Sift through the Delphic vapors and pick and choose those ideas that sound of ka-ching. Use your phone to covertly record them, if you’re feeling that 007.

Third, it’s time to read that time-honored classic of bullshitery, How to Make Friends and Influence People. Unless you’ve got a crazy grandma that’s all for your idea-based exploits, you’re going to need investors, and bad. Toastmasters, a network of public speech specialists, can hone your skills, and, it’s free. At least get enough cash to get your idea into a solid, working, tangible thing that can be patented. This should be your primary business plan. Once there, you’ll be able to sell it to a corporate vulture or decide to continue developing it on your own. Once you’ve reached this stage, the person who you stole it from will have little to no ability to sue you (as long as he does NOT have a patent or obviously developed device).

Lastly, like ninjas, your greatest weapons will be speed and stealth. The faster you can get an idea and put it into application without setting off alarms, the better. So keep your ear gloves ready. And always stay on your brain toes.


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