Creativity, Innovation, Intellectual Property and Legal Framework

“Intellectual property has the shelf life of a banana.”

– Bill Gates

Sometime back I met a CHRO who told me that he wanted to make his organisation innovative, his idea of innovation was to ask his team members to come up with five innovative ideas every year. When I asked him how many were implemented and what was the total financial benefits in rupees from this initiative, his reply was “None”.

Some organisations equate innovation with submission of creative ideas. KPI for innovation is something like number of innovative ideas submitted.

'It's not easy being ahead of your time.'

Coming up with creative ideas is one thing. Innovation happens only when this creative idea is implemented and you get financial benefit from it.

Mere submission of creative ideas is not enough, you need to scan them to identify which can are worth implementing, ensure implementation and finally derive financial benefit from them.

“A gee-whiz product that does not deliver value to customer and provide financial benefit to company is not an innovation. Innovation is not complete until it shows up in financial results.”

-Ram Charan, Game Changer

Next stage is to make use of legal framework to ensure that your ideas are not stolen by someone.

In India there are various laws for protection of intellectual property like Patents Act, 1970, Copyrights Act ,1957, Industrial Designs Act, 2000, Trade Marks Act ,1999 etc.

Patent is for invention for which inventor claims exclusive rights. To patent an innovation it is important to see if idea is novel/new, non-obvious (not anyone can think about it) and of course useful. Such exclusive rights are usually granted for 20 years from the day patent is filed, post that is open for all.


Copyrights on the other hand cover unique expression of ideas ex. songs, poem, paintings, films etc. Unlike patents novelty and non-obviousness is not the criteria, what it protects is expression of idea, not the idea itself.


Industrial Designs Act protects the visual designs of the object ex. shape, pattern, lines, colours etc.

Dilbert - dt_c150323.tif

“I oppose piracy and want to see intellectual property protected because that is what fosters and rewards innovation.”

-Jared Polis, American Entrepreneur

As far a trade secrets are concerned there is no separate law for it, an employer can put clause in agreement with employee, which prevents employee from revealing trade secret during employment and post-employment. Employee can be prosecuted in case of infringement.

'I know Pasteur didn't work under these conditions, but Pasteur didn't have fifty companies trying to steal his trade secrets.'

If organisation wants to bring culture of innovation then it needs to work on several fronts- train employees on creativity and innovation, design organisational culture that supports innovation, design platform to convert ideas into products or services that can be sold and use legal framework to protect such ideas from getting copied.


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