Non disclosure of what exactly?

Dropping into a hotbed of innovation today I was asked before I did anything else to sign a non disclosure agreement. Meaning I suppose that if I dared murmur a word about the ideas I was about to see then a team of lawyers would hound me to the end of the planet. Only what I saw were not business plans or patented products but ideas. And you can't protect an idea.

The fact that Apple were thinking of launching a mobile phone was not unexpected or radical. Knowing they were or they weren't made little difference. Microsoft's Steve Bullmer laughed at them. There was no way they could overtake Microsoft's investment in a mobile OS. But of course they did. With a design that changed the way mobiles are used. And moved the game on from voice to data.  Now that design was worth protecting with a non disclosure agreement. The idea wasn't.  Funnily enough it was on Microsoft premises where I signed the agreement that I wouldn't talk about any of the ideas I saw. John Kearon of Brainjuicer at a conference I attended that he didn't care how many of his competitors knew about his ideas because when they challenged him they made his idea better. The only point at which it is worth stealing a product idea is when it is ready for market. By which time the owner should have such an advantage that the competition shouldn't be able to catch up. I'm with John on this one. Because I can't comment on any of the ideas – because nobody who saw them is allowed to talk about them they are unlikely to go anywhere. Which is a pity.



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