Why Patents Are Bad For The Creative Mind

A creative mind doesn’t exist without the freedom to use tools and ideas, which is why patents are bad. Limiting either of these only hurts the creative output of talented creatives.

Don’t get me wrong, in certain scenarios like technological advancements, it is very important to protect your innovations. But, the same laws which allow the “little guy” to compete with the “big guy” are taken advantage of by the select few for a creative edge.

A couple of years ago, scientists invented Vantablack – the darkest color ever created – which absorbs an astonishing 99.965% of light. The color literally tricks your brain into witnessing nothing. It’s as close as we can get to the illusion of empty space.

Upon its creation, artists and others with a creative mind began salivating at the thought of incorporating the color into their next work.

Then, a man bought the exclusive rights for the use of Vantablack in art. Anish Kapoor, the sculptor behind Chicago’s Cloud Gate, which you probably know as “The Bean”, owns Vantablack. He claimed the color to be his and hoards it for his own creations.

In Anish’s defense, he has a close relationship with the scientists who created Vantablack. Because it is a lengthy process to manufacture it, Anish felt it was best to limit its use in art, and work with the scientists closely to push Vantablack’s use cases elsewhere.

Many artists felt handicapped by this action, though and decided to push back against Anish Kapoor. When the pinkest paint was developed the owner of it, Stuart Semple, decided to grant the exclusive rights to everyone…except Anish Kapoor. You know how the saying goes: revenge is a dish best served cold.

Art isn’t the only area where this “legal dibs” obscures the creative mind, though.

For instance, during the third presidential debate this year, Trump referred to Clinton as a “Nasty Woman”. Like getting your first gray hair, this comment stood out. In fact, it stood out so much that a man named Mike Lin filed a trademark for the exclusive rights to that phrase for online retail purposes. No big deal, right?! I’m sure Trump wasn’t planning on creating t-shirts with that phrase on it anyway.

This isn’t the first time he’s done this, though. Mike filed the trademark to Jay Z’s “99 Problems”, Ozzy Osbourne’s “Prince of Darkness”, Disney’s “House of Mouse”, Beyonce’s “Poison Ivy Park”, Kobe and Nike’s “The Black Mamba”, among 70 other prominent phrases.

Basically, if someone uses a phrase he owns he can take them to court for millions of dollars. Also, Mike can legally create a t-shirt that says, “I got 99 Problems, but a Nasty Woman ain’t one”.

In terms of a creative mind, Mike is at the low-end of the totem pole, along with hundreds of other patent buyers. In terms of business strategy, he is brilliant.

Buying the patent to someone else’s work, just like buying the rights to Vantablack, is completely legal despite a few governmental attempts to kill it. In Mike’s defense, much of the proceeds he gets from legal action on the patents goes toward charitable causes.

Quite frankly, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to protect your intellectual property and I wouldn’t blame you for protecting yourself.

Use your creative mind to develop your own trademark

In my opinion, ideas are just figments of the imagination, until execution occurs. There were probably a million other people with the idea to create an electric car before Elon Musk (Nicola Tesla being one of the first). But, he had the guts and ability to execute it. The irony here is that Elon doesn’t even patent his technology, allowing anyone to use his innovations.

Worrying about legally protecting ideas takes valuable time. Instead, spend your time executing the idea, and in the process, mark your work with a creative trademark.

Basically, a creative trademark is the centuries-old concept that allows you to brand your creativity, without limiting the creativity of others.  

For instance, the film director Quentin Tarantino mixes comedy, gore, and non-linear stories to create Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Bastards, etc... His technique is very recognizable and you can tell when someone is influenced by a Tarantino film. But, you can’t help but notice the influence from Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver or Brian De Palma’s Carrie. Film directors don’t trademark their techniques because it allows for other directors to sample and create their own artistic identities, pushing film to greater extents.

One day, the artist Jackson Pollock decided to put his canvas on the ground and drip paint onto it. This gave rise to an entire art motif known as abstract expressionism. As a result, he’s given credit for starting this motif with his unique style. But, he didn’t trademark the technique.

I’m sure you are wondering: “Well, these people are famous. Why should I have a creative trademark?”

Because they were once in the same spot you are now. Most likely, you already have a creative trademark and don’t realize it. There are techniques, styles, and themes that make your creations uniquely yours. Identifying those and get in the habit of incorporating them across all your creations.

Being a creative and a businessman, I understand both sides of the argument over patenting creativity. So, I’d love to hear your thoughts on Anish Kapoor and Mike Lin’s actions, maybe an experience you’ve had on the subject, or simply your thoughts after reading the article.

If you feel compelled to free those thoughts locked in your head, please leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing what you have to say!

Along with writing Quick Theories, I do freelance growth strategy consulting. Whether you are at a loss for campaign ideas or are struggling to determine the best way to execute your marketing strategy, I can be of great assistance. If you feel you can benefit from a monthly growth call, let’s set up a time to chat here.

14 Comments

  • 9 months ago

    we are simply the hole in the flute of creative winds, a part of the vessel of creative expression.

    intent is paramount, ask yourself why are you trying to protect it? so you can grow? or to suffocate others?

    perhaps the aim to grow others ideas by expressing your own, then all will be better off.

    all will be raised, the baseline is lifted for all to enjoy.

    • 6 months ago

      As a Mechanical Engineer, I cannot help cringing at the thought of another being plagiarizing my work and receiving the fruits of my labor. As a motivational speaker and dancer, I agree with the open source for ideas. Ideas flourish from the combination of ideas and that’s true for technical innovations and arts innovations.
      Would you agree or disagree to the following: once your brand/trademark has been made known to the world it cannot be taken away from you. @QUHARRISON

  • JENNA
    9 months ago

    I agree that patents are important, especially when it comes to technical design. However, people will still copy this anyway, in whichever way they can get away with. So patenting something doesn’t stop people from copying it, it might just discourage them, with the threat of being sued.

    I think when it comes to colour and speech, patenting certain terms for financial gain makes sense, but where is the line?

    You can’t go around patenting everything you create, because like you said, all ideas build on previous ideas.

  • 9 months ago

    great read! looking foreard to your next article.

  • Christopher Hough
    9 months ago

    For me, the knowledge that someone found use for my idea is reward enough. Of course, it would be different if I didn’t have enough to live on, but a patent of an idea that no one used is worthless. I learned this the hard way.

  • Ms. Arlene Mclaurin Mallett
    9 months ago

    Very informative and RIGHT ON TIME! For me…as an artist, poet and writer (in the beginning) I would do a poor man’s copy right by addressing and mailing my work to myself? I have been GREAT ideas and resolutions for the ills and problems AMERICA NOW FACE!

    I am interested in the trademark that allows others to “freely” express themselves and add to the creative possess of life.

    I see your LIGHT as an extension of the blessings that occur from generation to generation. And I believe the subject matter is meant for me and those coming after me, IN ORDER, that those of African descent will FINNALY receive the credit rightly deserving them IN THIS COUNTRY!

    While I still live with the stories and (my mother’s memory) of how the Master would steal their hard earn labor…it doesn’t have TO BE for THE NEXT GENERATION.

    We can actually prepare THE SEED of future ceatives to select the proper tools or avenues by which to bring forth or express their creative work, while allowing the creative process to freely be expressed by others too! We ALL WIN! Because every human being is unique is his or her OWN RIGHT…there is no way…to mistake someone’s else work or creation for another. THE PURPOSE FOR THE ARTICLE YOUR WORK AND THAT OF OTHERS…the purpose of all of this…is so WE CAN FREELY AND AMIDBLY LIVE OUT THE CREED OF The land…”and we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…:” and you know the quote…the last and most important part…the right IN THIS COUNTRY to pursue “happiness”. Most, individuals never tap or connect to their creative being or process…however…for those of us who do…I think the article is valuable and of great worth.

  • Ms. Arlene Mclaurin Mallett
    9 months ago

    Please Parton me (Ms.Arlene) for NOT correcting the errors in my post.

  • 9 months ago

    Patents and trademarks have utility. But the law affords barrading laws of creative evolution. No idea or knowledge should be able to be owned by any individual or group of entities. The moment an idea is written, it becomes established as tangible. The creation of the words or symbols used to correspond with others have value. Although, the imagination it derived from was technically just what it means; “an image of prior experience”. A mirror of prior experience that is infinite in reflection.

    For it is not the idea or published knowledge itself that determines the value, it is the process of creation that determines its natural and divine value. Should individuals have the right to patent or trademark? Sure. Bur it should merely serve as a certificate of seal recognizing the process of creation. This should not afford the legal right for any infividual or group to disrupt the process of natural evolution of innovation. This natural process of innovation is biologically which evolves our species on this planet. This is what’s called Creative Evolution.

    The Sanskrit meaning of Knowledge in English is literall “to know”. “To know” is a process. It requires and defines an experience; the combination of cyclical expression and perception of two or more entities capable of expressing frequency (energy). Patents and trademarks are simply official seals accrediting someone’s claimed experience. But the USPTO has no system in place that affords a small poor boy or girl who had the same idea and created a shirt to go and compete for equal opportunity in a free trade market without jumping through hoops.

    This is unfair and unlawful. To say patents and trademarks should be eliminated, would sound radical. So I will say this; let’s simply allow nature to run its course. Nature evolves without force or assistance. That which is unnatural, naturally either becomes irrelevant or erodes as bloom rambles and bypasses it. The patent and trademark systems, in perspective to the age of humankind civilization is not that old and is already being questioned and naturally phased out by the culture and society of open systems like opensource software projects, Bitcoin, public blockchain projects, Holacracy, open society concepts and several open innovation initiatives launched by organizations such as Microsoft, Linux, Intel and more. Even our government has begun going opensource (code.gov).

    We are also seeing examples of that happening right now in the blockchain industry where banks are trying to pantent a system that was naturally born and seeded for All people and by All people with unrestricted equal Access rights as inclusive value for All people.. The patents may be able to delay the rate of evolution temporarily but will not be able to sustain its duration; which is infinite.

  • 6 months ago

    As a Mechanical Engineer, I cannot help cringing at the thought of another being plagiarizing my work and receiving the fruits of my labor. As a motivational speaker and dancer, I agree with the open source for ideas. Ideas flourish from the combination of ideas and that’s true for technical innovations and arts innovations.
    Would you agree or disagree to the following: once your brand/trademark has been made known to the world it cannot be taken away from you. @QUHARRISON

  • Dan Bosak
    5 months ago

    The purpose of a patent is rewarding the creator for the work invested in creating the … what exactly?
    An idea? No, that you cannot patent unless you wrap it as a concept.
    Now, the people wanting to build upon your creation need to pay (reward) you for making it possible for them to use it.
    Really creative people make their own way and don’t need whatever is patented. In that case, the patent stimulates creativity.
    Business oriented ones, pay for patents as long as it makes business sense for them. If not the patent rights remain standing as a waste of money for whoever bothered to pay for them. Law and demand.
    Are you aware how many patents never ever lead to creating anything out of them? Hopefully, that fact discourages the paranoid and overconfident “inventors”. So, no problem there.
    The real “patent trap” is created when the legal system allows for patenting previously existing “stuff” – and that is the real issue with patenting the phrases, mentioned in Terry’s article. The one who patented the phrases literally “stole” them from the public – and the legal system allowed for that.
    So, it’s not protecting an inventor the problem, but the patenting system that allows for “depriving” the rights to use something that had already existed as free to use beforehand, without creating anything.
    That has to be changed,

    • Keith A.
      5 months ago

      I agree, these pharmaceutical companies, in particular, take advantage of this very same issue, which is identified as evergreening- only changing a few chemicals in an existing drug,- then patenting the refined “new” drug, impeding access to life saving drugs for individuals in dire need. Not mentioning, this “new” drug is being set at an outrageous price which essentially makes up more profit than investments for minimal modification. This tactic must be prohibited.

  • Lydia
    5 months ago

    Hi QuHarrison,

    One of your articles came into my inbox yesterday through Linkedin. After i read it, i subscribed right away. The tech world is not a world i’m familiar with but i understand that as a professional in today’s world, i need to know about technology as much as i can……….so i’m here to learn. I see you’re a combination of genius, wit and creativity. Your writing style actual make it easy for a non-tech person like me to understand what is going on. Thank you and keep up the outstanding work!

  • Keith A.
    5 months ago

    Hi QuHarrison:

    As I read through your articles filled with such a creative writing technique, I see much of myself, which initiated my reaction to become a first time subscriber and a listener- which was drawn through LinkedIn. I’m a Senior at the University of Kentucky and an inspiring patent attorney, which compelled me to respond to this article in particular. I agree with your argument about how innovativors should seek trademark over patent, in order to reduce the creative barriers, however, I do believe just because there are patents pending/established doesn’t mean to not proceed. For this reason, most innovators tend to feel intimidated or discouraged to proceed with further effort, at least I know I did, that’s why it’s very important for innovators to seek help from a patent attorney early on and make use of Uspto.com to ensure feasibility. All in all, trademarks are great because they don’t need to be registered, and don’t expire, but like you said, ideas are like fragments until executed; which with trademarks is ideal opposed to unfragmented ideas patentable to spur an innovator with wealth and prosperity. So, I think it is subjective upon the greed of the innovater,. Just have a look at these pharmaceutical companies who reject lifesaving drugs because they are unpatentable- no return on investment.

  • geo
    5 months ago

    The Chinese think so as well

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