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When do you no longer own YOUR ideas..?

As the awareness of intellectual property rights grows, especially as we continue to venture further into the ‘information age’ – it’s an interesting topic when addressed towards advertising agencies. Agencies are put in precarious positions when they pitch ideas to their various potential clients. If a nondisclosure agreement isn’t presented (which to be honest, would not be a very enjoyable method, considering our style of business) there is no guarantee that those you are pitching to won’t, in turn, take those ideas and run with them for themselves, leaving you and what used to be your ideas, in the dust.

This topic brings me to the recent law suit between New York-based visual merchandising and branding firm, Hudson & Broad, and their former clients JC Penny. The suit is about a “breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets.” In this case, JC Penny allegedly signed a contract for use of H+B's design and idea with a promise to use it in several hundred stores. JC Penny then allegedly broke said contract and took the idea to another vendor. In this instance, there was a contract, which means they might have a case. But what about in situations where only a pitch is made, where ideas are shared, with no guarantee of any contract being signed?

This is a risk agencies take every day. We thrive on ideas, and enjoy sharing them for the future benefit of our prospective clients. But once an idea leaves our lips, is it really still OUR idea?

My response to this conundrum is simple. With little risk comes little reward, and the converse is also true. Without taking this gamble – agencies would never win work. How can you prove your expertise, passion, creativity and worth without sharing your well thought out ideas? So although it's always a risk, I imagine we all hope and expect that mankind will abide by the 'golden rule'. As the President of Hudson & Broad publicly states, all they want is to be treated as the campaign in question boasts “Fair and Square”.