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Idélaboratoriet is a consulting company specializing in creativity and innovation. Idélaboratoriet was founded in 2000.

Idélaboratoriet works in the field of creativity and innovation. We create value for our clients for example through innovation strategy planning, facilitation of creative processes, training programs in professional idea creation and implementation of digital idea management solutions.

Idélaboratoriet is Swedish for The Idea Lab.

Idélaboratoriet was founded in Sweden and has its headquarters in Malmö in southern Sweden, but works with clients worldwide.

Idélaboratoriet likes to say that creativity is a process of getting original ideas that have some sort of value and innovation is the profitable implementation of creativity.

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#18 Who Owns Your Idea?

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The Serious Innovation Newsletter #18

Ideas and intellectual capital is the gold of the future. Despite its often weightless and abstract existence the new Klondike is the world of algorithms, technical solutions and design. The question is who owns what? Back in the day’s, ownership of natural resources was easy – the land was owned by the landowner. But who owns the natural resources of your brain. Is the idea owned by the creator of the idea? The subject is under debate from a wide range of perspectives and especially the companies are breaking a cold sweat when questions concerning IPR are put on the table.
IPR stands for Intellectual Property Rights and are these words are worth to remember! The term incorporates the judicial areas of intellectual capital, the elusive gold of tomorrow. IPR sets the base for a new cadre of lawyers and patent consultancies that only helps big business out of possible booby traps.
So what is new with this lightweight property? Despite disagreements, the economic principles of intellectual property are widely accepted. Intellectual property differs from physical property in two key respects. First, you and I cannot both sit in the same seat at the new Copenhagen Opera. But you and I can both listen to Satie’s gymnopedie. Intellectual property is not an exhaustible resource, it is never ending. My consumption does not reduce your consumption. Second, adding more seats to enlarge the Copenhagen opera costs money. Reproducing a recording of a piano piece by Satie costs very little.

So, if you get a magnificent new idea at work, are you the owner of that idea or is your employer the owner of the “brain property”? Well, the question is not easy to answer because the reply depends upon where you work geographically, what you do for a living and what position and working title you have. Let’s look at some examples:
If you work at a private company, the idea is usually owned by the company, but the creator of the idea can sometimes get a bonus of some kind. Swedish companies like AstraZeneca, Tetra Pak and Ericsson have paid extra money to employees that did not think that they got enough of a kickback on their ideas. But still if you have product developer on your business card or is employed in R&D, getting ideas are part of your work description and therefore belong to the company. As a company you also have to be careful with the ideas of outsiders, people who sometimes don’t even have a patent. Electrolux paid an American designer, who proclaimed that the company had stolen his design, 230 million Swedish crowns just to stay out of court. The company still thought that they had done no mistake, but the risk and the bad PR of a law suit made them pay to stay out of trouble.
The Swedish inventor Håkan Lans on the other hand has 24/7 protection by the Swedish secret service because of threats he has gotten that can be connected to lawsuits in US. Lans has sued a number of American firms for patent intrusion.

If you work in a university the picture is kind of blurry. In Sweden the so called “teacher exception” means that a researcher that gets an idea owns the idea himself. In the US, on the contrary, the universities own the results of the research. An interesting fact on the subject is that despite that the Swedish researcher should have more motivation to do business with their research, the US are better at commercializing science findings.

So the war of IPR is going on at all levels – from the pirate copying discussions in the WTO to the ownership of the ideas in small firms. Why all this fuzz right now? The current explosion in controversy over the protection of ideas has three main causes. First, brainpower drives the modern economy: there are more demands to own ideas and more demands for cheaper access to ideas. Second, technological change has made it harder to protect ideas. More people want to use technology to get access to intellectual property. The owners of this property want to stop or at least limit these attempts. Third, globalization has made it easier for intellectual property to spread to parts of the world with weaker protection of ideas. As one debater puts it:
“In a variant of Gresham’s Law, the one nation that does not protect patents within its borders can drive down global standards, making it harder to enforce ownership rights everywhere.”

On top of these trends, the output of the “idea industry” has grown exponentially. More books, movies, drugs, music, software, and video games exist today than at any time in history.

A wild and fearless hunt like the rumble for gold in the Wild West is on the horizon. Who has ownership – the one who has the creative idea, the employer or the reproducer? What came first, the chicken or the egg or the twin? And the fight has just begun…

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