Have you thought about the unique aspects of what makes your business different? Are those business ideas valuable to others? Not valuable in the way that you have where you have are present to give value but the ideas, the concepts, and the business practices. Today we talk about why it’s time to think about building your own intellectual property.
A few things I’ve seen lately have pushed me to focus on why it’s important to have your own IP. I recently read the book The End of Work by Jeremy Rifkin. This book is basically about how technology is killing the human labor force. I like reading books that are a few years old to see if they were accurate in their predictions. This one seems spot on.
For instance the news from the World’s Largest Electronics Manufacturer Foxconn Wants 1 Million More Robots In 3 Years. Bye-bye Human Labor. Then we have Japanese Scientists Invent Robot That Learns, Thinks, and Acts.
I also give my experience of a new software program that takes graphic designed PSD files and turns them into WordPress themes. Then we have the Y Combinator concept. From Wikipedia:
Compared to other startup funds, Y Combinator provides very little money ($14,000 for startups with 1 founder, $17,000 for startups with 2 founders, and $20,000 for those with 3 or more). This reflects co-founder Paul Graham’s theory that between free software, dynamic languages, the web, and Moore’s Law, the cost of founding an information technology startup has greatly decreased. Wired has called Y Combinator a “boot camp for startups”.
14K – 20K is not a lot of money for a startup but with Moore’s law and the cost of development tools and languages it makes sense. I’ve seen it first hand when I attended a start up weekend here in St Paul, MN.
Technology Is Changing All Levels of Labor
All of these lead me to think that technology will drastically change the labor force within 10-12 years. It’s not just manual labor but sales, management, and a host of other traditional white-collar jobs. Just look at what has happened to Wall Street. Trades can now be executed within 150 micro seconds or 1/2000th the time it takes the human eye to blink. Welcome to the age of algorithmic trading —- the new order. Another term that’s used is HFT or High Frequency Trading. In studies I’ve seen algorithmic trading accounts for nearly 60% of the volumes.
So no longer do we need the men and women who decided what to trade, did the research, or even provided the human touch. Now a machine decides in an amazing slice of time what to trade, when, and how. Could something similar happen in your industry? If so who are the ones that are continuing to get paid? In the HFT and Wall Street world it’s the programmers (the ones with IP).
Outside of this conversation is the moral stand and what this means for our society. Given this drive for technology to replace human labor what is one answer? I believe it’s to develop your own form of intellectual property. So let’s jump in…
What is Intellectual Property?
There are 4 main types of IP.
- Copyrights (think stuff like books and music)
- Trademarks (stuff like business logo, name, slogan)
- Patents (most valuable a “business method” or new technology)
- Trade Secrets (think the Coca Cola Recipe)
It’s that last one that is most relevant to our discussion today.
Trade Secrets as Intellectual Property
Trade secrets are secrets of your business trade. A few good examples of intellectual property trade secrets:
- Business Methods
- Marketing Strategies
- Anything else that gives the business a competitive advantage
A trade secret is not a patent or a trademark. Both patents and trademarks are matters of public record, while a trade secret is confidential and proprietary. Trade secrets cover information that includes formulas, patterns, compilations, programs, devices, methods, techniques or processes.
Questions for Your Own Trade Secrets
Developing assets from your own unique business experience and processes has the potential to open other revenues sources. We’ve recently gone through this exercise at You Brand, Inc. We found we have a few things that are unique and are opportunities for trade secrets.
So what can you do about developing your own IP? Here are some questions I’d start with:
- What aspects of my business model makes me different from my competitors?
- What aspects of business is valuable to others?
- What aspects of what I do or my business would someone pay for without me being present?
I believe as technology innovation accelerates human logic and unique practices developed by a thinking person will become more important. Even if that doesn’t happen I still think developing your own unique IP will give you a possible extra revenue source.
I’ve also found a good overview of protecting your trade secrets. Check that out right here.
What do you think? Is IP important for everybody to consider or will machines and tech never be able to replace your role or your value you provide?