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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

This is Why.
People are constantly wondering why mega-corps refuse to accept ideas from outside sources. The primary reason I have found this to be true, ISN'T because they are not interested in new ideas, innovation, or bettering their position in the marketplace -- it's because there's a very good chance a similar idea may already be under consideration or development within the company.

Being the litigious society that we are, there is a HUGE risk that the company would be sued for seeming to "steal" the idea they had accepted from an outside source. The corporation has a much better chance of defending its position if they simply don't put themselves at risk -- which means adopting a zero-tolerance policy for accepting ideas outside of their corporate walls.

While some great ideas can certainly come from consumers and 'amateur' Idea Guys and Gals, these same streetwise innovators are notoriously egotistic and adamant when accusing someone of stealing their idea. They seem to leave no possibility that more than one person could have arrived at a similar, even identical, conclusion.

And it doesn't just happen to some Joe Schmo off the street -- witness this news blurb about a lawsuit from a pair of tv producers from Minnesota who have syndicated a show to over 125 stations across the US. Their show is call "Million Dollar Idea" and it is filmed at the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN. Contestants on their show compete for 50,000 in seed money to develop an idea pitched to a panel of celebrity judges who choose a winner.

There's really nothing that original here.
It's American Idol meets The Staples Invention Quest Contest -- and there's the rub. Idol judge Simon Cowell, ABC, and some associated entertainment producers are being sued by the Minnesota pair for "unspecified damages" and to prevent a similar show (called "The Million Dollar Idea") from hitting the air waves.

Truly, I don't think there was any theft of intellectual property. If there WERE, I'd certainly hope there would have been a better attempt to disguise it. I think this is a classic case of multiple people coming up with the same idea. Granted, I think our Bloomington group should win an injunction against the show, causing Cowell and company to buy their rights (if they're interested in selling), but I don't think they should be awarded any damages -- ABC's show never hit the air. What damages could they have suffered?

That said -- I don't think the core idea is original enough to protect it against similar competitors. After all, look how many spin-offs American Idol, Survivor, and The Apprentice have spawned. Cowell and ABC simply need to adjust their concept enough to (slightly) differentiate it from the show already in existence.

The easiest path? Instead of having the celebs pick the winner -- open it up to online voting, 976 numbers, and text messaging. Match it up more closely with the American Idol formula (as a matter of fact -- called it "American Ingenuity") and I think they'd be in a position to have the lawsuit dismissed.

As a matter of fact, now that I'm thinking about it, I seem to remember a tv show from several years ago where people tried to introduce their ideas for creating a new "fad" product (like the Pet Rock).

I did some quick Google-ing, but the only thing I can find is what appears to be a kid version of the concept being developed by Dr. Fad, creator of the "Wacky WallWalker." Again, different creators, same doggone idea.

Anyway... THAT'S why no one at the 'corporate office' wants to receive your packet containing really cool ideas -- they're afraid of ending up in court.


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