Had a Flash of Genius? Better Learn How To Protect Your Idea

Bob Kearns, creator of the intermittent windshield wiper, is a famous American inventor not because his device was particularly ingenious or revolutionary. Kearns, who died in 2005, became a minor folk hero by successfully suing Ford and Chrysler for stealing his idea. Kearns' David v. Goliath tale—recounted in the 2008 movie Flash of Genius and in a 1993 New Yorker article—had a happy ending because the obsessive Kearns patented his invention, steeped himself in patent law and was willing to carry on his court battles for years, in the process sacrificing his marriage and (some say) his sanity in a Quixotic pursuit of justice.

Few entrepreneurs will ever have to endure what Kearns did. But intellectual property (IP) has become so important in business today that they need at least a rudimentary understanding of how patent, trademark and copyright laws can protect their ideas and brands. To meet that need, Alibaba.com and IP Street, which sells Web-based tools for evaluating patent documents and data, just opened an online micro-site, titled "Understanding IP," where anyone can learn the basics. (A Chinese version of the site is available here).

Brian Ho, a member of Alibaba.com's legal staff who helped produce Understanding IP, said the B2B online trading platform has mechanisms in place to fight IP infringement by its members, but wanted to do more. "It is always our aim to keep the platform as clean as possible," Ho said. "Improving the quality of our members by education is one of the ways we can reduce the infringement claims that we receive." Through the micro-site's articles, FAQs, and videos, businessmen and women "can learn the importance of intellectual property, why people should respect others' rights, and how to protect their own rights," Ho said.

To read about IP protection and China, click here.

Alibaba.com members who buy one of IP Street's products through the micro-site can get a discount. To get a better idea of the information on offer, check out the video below. More vids on IP can be found at IP Street by clicking here.

The Importance of IP from IPstreet on Vimeo.