A crusade against idea theft

Yesterday’s article on idea theft only showed how difficult the issue is to resolve.

However, a new service, PitchMark, aiming to protect creators’ intellectual property during pitches, has been launched this week. Will the service be able to deter idea theft? Marketing speaks to founder Mark Laudi (pictured).

How does PitchMark work?

PitchMark deters idea theft, and defends you if it happens.

If you are a creator, and you are pitching your idea to a prospective client:

1. You upload your pitch documents (PDF, PPT, etc) to your profile
2. You immediately download the documents again in a compressed folder from the link provided
3. Also included in the compressed folder: (a) a certificate (such as the one you see on our site) proving the date and time you registered your concept or pitch, as well as your details, and (b) a license authorising the recipient to evaluate your pitch, without transferring rights to them.
4. You then send the compressed folder to your prospective client.

If you find that your idea has been used without your permission, complete the reporting form on the PitchMark site and our legal counsel will tell you within a few moments what your options are for pursuing a claim.

However, we want to bring creators and clients closer together, so we also offer an accreditation service for people who receive and evaluate pitches (ie, clients).

If you are a client, you can become a PitchMark member and have the right to use our logo in your email signature, in your LinkedIn profile, website and elsewhere. This signals to vendors and suppliers that they can entrust their ideas to you and that you will not make unauthorised use of them. This will result in an atmosphere of trust and respect, and creators will be more willing to share more of their best ideas with you.

How are you getting agencies to sign on?

Agencies are only too well aware of idea theft (as you heard during the debate yesterday). Also, there is no consensus on pitch fees (whether to charge, and if so, how much). PitchMark solves both these issues, and the response we have received is terrific. We are getting comments like "this is long overdue", and "finally, someone is doing something about this".

It is free for creators to sign up, and the first PitchMark is free.

How about clients? What is the motivation for clients to pay the membership fee and sign on?

Creators love their clients. But they love some clients more than others. They work harder for clients who respect their ideas. So, clients can distinguish themselves by becoming a PitchMark member and signaling that they are a trustworthy partner.

It's only logical that creators are more likely to offer their best ideas - for free - knowing that their claim to their ideas will be respected.

What's the cost for clients to sign up?

The fee is USD$800 a year, with discounts for multi-year memberships. As with every membership we incur operating costs which need to be covered. Incidentally, check out my email signature below (click on the logo to see what happens) and my LinkedIn profile (under background) - this image appears for as long as the client is a member.

Are there any clients that have come on board, and how many have signed on in total?

Cassandra Ong at Fuji Xerox is one, and who has given her approval to be quoted. Just above 100 have signed on. However, we are not displaying them all at this time.

You’ve highlighted idea theft as a serious issue experienced in every market. How does this service prevent it? And how is it different from earlier attempts to regulate idea theft?

PitchMark deters idea theft and defends you if it happens. We are embarking on a global movement to change the culture surrounding ownership of ideas. Ideas are the spark of innovation. If ownership of ideas are not respected, innovation suffers.

PitchMark brings both sides together - the creator (sell-side) and clients (buy-side) - to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust, while making it easier for creators to defend their ideas if they find that trust has been broken.

Should a PitchMark approved client be found to be stealing ideas, what actions will be taken against them?

The terms and conditions for becoming a member clearly state that membership can be revoked. Plus, creators can "Like" Clients who they work with in this atmosphere of trust and respect. These "Likes" accrue on the membership profile of the client on our website.

Is this targeted at the local Singapore market alone, or Asia Pacific?

Idea theft is a global problem. That's why we are doing a launch in London on Thursday, October 31.

Sometimes I hear people say Asia is particularly bad because the IP laws are weaker than in western countries. I disagree. You will find unscrupulous people everywhere. In fact, the reason why the IP laws might be tougher in western countries is precisely because of the problem with having their IP respected.

In your experience, what are the usual steps agencies/vendors take? How likely are they to pursue this legally?

This is just the point - when agencies discover their idea has been stolen they are usually upset and grumble about it, but either don't know what to do next, or are put off by the prospect that they will spend a lot of time and money pursuing a claim. So, they never pursue it. That's why PitchMark deters against idea theft (so hopefully the situation will never arise) and defends you if it happens (by providing you with a simple reporting mechanism, with our legal counsel ready to advise what to do next).