It Isn’t What We Know; It’s What We Do That Counts

March 4, 2006 darnell

I remember mentioning to my former barber that one of my first books was being published.

He asked me the title, and I told him.

And then, something amazing happened.

He took credit for my idea, my book, for the years of experience that it took for me to craft it.

He claimed I got the idea for the book from him!

It was preposterous. He knew nothing about my topic, and I had never discussed it with him. Apart from telling editors what I’m working on, I abide by a policy of never revealing the titles or topics of works in progress.

But for argument’s sake, let’s say he did think of the idea before I did.

So, what?

You can’t copyright or trademark a mere idea—any lawyer will tell you that.

There’s a good policy reason that it is so. Lots of people have ideas, strikingly similar ones, but it is the doers, the ones that bring them to life, that go from a mere thought to a physical manifestation, that are rewarded with intellectual property rights in it.

Edison wasn’t the only person to work on the light bulb, nor the Wright Brothers on flight. Lots of people share the same dreams, especially of invention and glory.

But few come through and do what they dream.

And that makes all the difference.

Who knows? My barber could be sitting on the next bestseller.

But until he lets us see his work, we’ll be consigned to reading the offerings of his inferiors, like me.

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