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.