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Online challenges and intellectual property

Posted by Holger Hoffmann-Riem Sep 17, 2015

Dear all

I have helped WWF New Zealand to set up this challenge, and Lee Barry has told me that some of you are concerned about their intellectual property. Since we have run quite a lot of similar challenges in Switzerland, Lee has asked me to share my thoughts on this topic.

In many cases it's in your best interest to openly disclose as much of your idea as possible, because this will help you to get more feedback. Which in turn will help you to improve your idea. And it's also quite likely that more people will vote for your idea if they have been in touch with you. Therefore my recommendation to most of you is: don't worry and share all of your ideas!

However, I am well aware of the fact that some of you have put a lot of effort into developing a new solution, and it's understandable that they don't want to see their idea to be "stolen". There are cases when it makes sense not to disclose intellectual property - for example when you have developed a new technology. In this case my advice is: don't mention the details of your technology, and focus on what you are trying to achieve. People will still be able to give you valuable feedback, but they won't learn enough about the details to steal anything. We have had thousands of participants in online challenges, and we have never had an issue with "theft"!

Some of you may have ideas that can be stolen relatively easily. This risk is greatest if you have developed a social innovation. Publishing such an idea here could theoretically increase the risk of idea theft. However, the "thief" would probably hear about your idea anyway, once you start implementing it. So you can't really avoid this problem. What you can do, however, is to think about it differently: if people like your idea, they are likely to interact with you via comments. This is a great way to get to know like-minded people who might end up working with you on your project. And the more people support you, the more likely you are to create a lasting impact. And the more people you have on your team, the more difficult it will be for somebody else to "beat" you.

This is why I believe in online challenges: the potential to benefit from this format is much greater than the risk!

Have fun, and feel free to get in touch with me (holger.hoffmann-riem@wwf.ch) if you have any questions!

Best wishes from the other side of the planet




This post was edited on Sep 23, 2016 by Michelle Eggleton

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