Branding In The Collaborative Economy: Are Intellectual Property Rights At Risk?

Feb 6 2014, 1:41pm CST | by

There’s an event going on today at Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri called The Resilient Summit.  It is described as an examination of the “Collaborative Economy,” which is being called  “a key trend that’s redefining established business models, empowering consumers and driving the next phase of social.”   How can Collaborative Economy have anything to do with Intellectual Property?

As it turns out, plenty.

The Collaborative Economy is a term we’ve seen cropping up with more and more frequency in the commercial and social media.  The Collaborative Economy is described as an economic system where consumers prefer to share, rather than purchase, goods and services.

Stop right there.  In a consumer-oriented economy, where the idea is for people to consume, changing the paradigm to sharing would seem to imply a lot less consumption.  Economically, it may remain to be seen whether there is less consumption or just different consumption, and perhaps different revenue models under which the overall consumer economy still expands.

Intellectual Property law has focused on how to let inventors, artists, authors and businesses protect their rights while generally selling their goods and services.  What is the tension between protecting “sales” and the collaborative model of sharing?  How do brand owners maintain and protect their valuable intellectual property assets in the collaborative marketplace? 

A lot of us know that instead of purchasing a car, someone who needs a car only occasionally can share a car through www.zipcar.com.   Or, a consumer from Detroit who wants to visit Paris for a week’s vacation can use www.airbnb.com instead of finding a hotel room.  Some brand owners have tried to figure out how to jump ahead of the curve and share, instead of sell, their products.  Patagonia’s and eBay’s Common Threads venture enables consumers to recycle “Patagonia” brand outdoor clothing from one user to another.  Toyota has started leasing cars for short term periods.   So in these instances, it seems pretty clear that trademarks may become more important than ever in a sharing economy.   People rely on the trademarked name as an assurance of quality.  Trademarks will signify quality, authenticity and predictability.  They may function in different ways, but the value of a trademark – an indication of origin – is still front and center.

Advertising and marketing are traditional concepts for extending a brand’s reach. As the Collaborative Economy shifts more power out of the hands of marketers and into those of consumers, how will brands be able to advertise and market lawfully? What steps will brands have to take to reach consumers without exposing themselves to undue risk?  Social media strategies did not fit into traditional marketing until the past couple of years.  But testimonials like the experiences of friends and other consumers are key marketing components for the Collaborative Economy.  Advertising that includes references to these experiences is still subject to regulation by the FTC and the various state rules.  Disclosure rules regarding who is talking about your product and why, and if they are getting any money or other benefit, are also going to be front and center.

When we get to traditional concepts of patent and copyright protection, there is the potential for fundamental distribution by sharing.  Patents and copyrights have both been around in this country for well over two centuries.  Both types of property rights were established directly in the Constitution (you could look it up: it’s right there in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, “…to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries…”)

The worthy bargain between encouraging invention and creation in exchange for giving inventors and authors various terms of exclusivity has always been favored by our laws.  An economy which relies in re-using rather than selling creates new challenges.  The digital economy has already exposed some of the weaknesses of the existing law in the music and publishing industries.  Will collaboration finally push a major overhaul of copyright law principles?  It may.  But for now, copyright owners will have to consider how entrenched legal principals such as a fair use right to copy the works of others will work into the equation.   For now, copyright owners might want to take more and innovative licensing approaches, including limiting the duration of rights which they grant, to find ways to explain this potential new collaborative marketplace. 

Patents are property rights which already lend themselves to licensing.  Collaboratives might be a boon to sharing via patent licensing arrangements.  Might manufacturers rent rather than buy?  Can they join in a pool of patents to help expand their scope and streamline enforcement efforts?   There are legal boundaries that apply to some of these methods, and patents are already under wide-scale attack.  Does collaboration prove an opportunity to change the dialog? It might, especially when considering patent-laden technologies like 3-D printing, which are on the verge of bringing massive changes to whom consumer goods are valued and delivered.  And of course, if some entrepreneurs start patenting methods of sharing, we’ll be having a whole ‘nother discussion, still.

People protect their intellectual property rights as a threat which helps keep copiers at bay, and as a weapon with which to attack when that threat fails to keep an infringer from testing the boundaries of protection.  Or, perhaps more realistically, when a buck is to be made by any means possible.  Will consumers be unable to distinguish this, in a sharing marketplace, between genuine goods and knock-offs?  If the sources of products are changing, where is the reassurance going to come from that the goods are genuine?  If a shopper buys a bag at Louis Vuitton, there are some good reasons to believe the product is the genuine article.  In a collaborative setting, what assurance is there, besides the buyer’s word?

The Collaborative Economy may well just be starting.  It may be the next big thing.  Companies can consider whether they can join the Collaborative Economy in a way that uses their intellectual property to build trust.  Companies will need to stay ahead of the consumer and legal curve to insure they know the impact on their intellectual property rights.

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Ultriva CEO Explains Lean Manufacturing Requires Supplier Replenishment
Cupertino, CA, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Often overlooked in lean manufacturing initiatives is the supply chain, in particular supplier replenishment. In the current company blog, Ultriva’s CEO, Narayan...
 
 
Brakes India Limited Selects VIMANA by System Insights to Increase Productivity and Reduce Costs
Brakes India Limited Selects VIMANA by System Insights to Increase Productivity and Reduce Costs
 
 
Jerry List to Present at QC Software Webinar: WCS Versus WMS Picking the Right Solution
Cincinnati, OH, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Tuesday, June 10th, Jerry List, VP of QC Software, will present a webinar titled, “Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) versus Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)…How...
 
 
TraceGains May 15th Webinar Provides Manufacturers Support with GFSI
Westminster, CO, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- TraceGains is offering a highly requested webinar addressing the impetus for creating the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), its benefits, and basic steps to support...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Ultriva CEO Explains Lean Manufacturing Requires Supplier Replenishment
Cupertino, CA, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Often overlooked in lean manufacturing initiatives is the supply chain, in particular supplier replenishment. In the current company blog, Ultriva&#8217;s CEO, Narayan...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Brakes India Limited Selects VIMANA by System Insights to Increase Productivity and Reduce Costs
Berkeley, CA, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- System Insights is rapidly expanding its customer base across discrete and process manufacturing industries including companies in Aerospace, Automotive, Electronics,...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Jerry List to Present at QC Software Webinar: WCS Versus WMS Picking the Right Solution
Cincinnati, OH, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Tuesday, June 10th, Jerry List, VP of QC Software, will present a webinar titled, &#8220;Warehouse Control Systems (WCS) versus Warehouse Management Systems (WMS)&#8230;How...
Read more on Business Balla
 
TraceGains May 15th Webinar Provides Manufacturers Support with GFSI
Westminster, CO, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- TraceGains is offering a highly requested webinar addressing the impetus for creating the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI), its benefits, and basic steps to support...
Read more on Business Balla
 
After Game One Win, Warriors Playoff Tickets Are Now Most Expensive In U.S.
With their dramatic game-one road win against the Clippers, the Warriors have the upper-hand in the battle for California basketball.  If they can advance, it will be the only the third time in the last twenty years...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Enterprises TV to Air Segment on Reducing Business Travel Costs
Coral Springs, FL, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- The producers of Enterprises TV are pleased to announce they are working on a segment focusing on business travel costs and how some companies are reducing them. As...
Read more on TV Balla
 
3 Month BJJ White Belt Fundamentals Course with Master Marco Alvan
Springfield, MA, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Come and find out how to learn Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in a fun, relaxed environment. Team Link in Ludlow, Massachusetts will be holding 3 month BJJ course designed...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Bcut Productions Presents "The Hilltop Barbershop" Movie Premiere
Springfield, NJ, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- Bobby and his friends take you on a comical ride as the owner of Bobby&#39;s Cut above barbershop. The story takes you into the real world of the barbershop and the...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Nous Infosystems and SmartBear Software Enter Strategic Partnership
Bangalore, India, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- SmartBear Software, the leading provider of software quality and performance management tools, and Nous Infosystems, a global IT organization offering quality software...
Read more on Business Balla
 
EVO Payments International and PAY.ON Partner on Quick Interface for SME Merchants
Munich, Germany, April 20, 2014 --(PR.com)-- PAY.ON, the world&#39;s leading operator of web-based, omnichannel payment infrastructure systems, and EVO Payments International (EVO), a leading card payment acquirer and...
Read more on Business Balla
 
 
Auto Balla Sexy Balla Sport Balla TV Balla Politics Balla Movie Balla Apple Balla Business Balla Ad Balla Celebrity Balla