Saturday, August 30, 2008

Is that IP worth Protecting?

I attempted to watch the movie Hancock before its theater release. I say attempted because I was doing this online at one of the bootleg movie distribution sites, it wasn't exactly the entertaining experience I'd hoped for. The movie was distributed in three separate streams/downloads and the quality was very poor, but I got the gist of the movie and decided after watching the first stream that I should probably go see it at the theater.

The experience got me thinking though, why don't movies theaters release a low quality, multiple stream versions of the movies before release? Would the movie do better or worse at the box office as a result? Isn't this low quality version similar to giving away free samples of your product or content? If they are concerned about their brand why not just support the bootleg sites? My guess is that the main blocking issue is protecting the copyright.

These thoughts/questions led me to other question closer home; why don't we publish our product documentation online on the company's website? I asked a few folks here at work and the response I got was we didn't post the documentation to protect our intellectual property (IP) and maintain our competitive advantage. Does this really give us a competitive advantage or is the IP captured in our product documentation after the product is released really worth protecting? My personal opinion is that we stand to gain more from sharing the documentations than we stand to gain by not sharing. I believe it gives potential customers an opportunity to evaluate the product and be more prepared to ask questions based on an understanding of the literature. It is also a great complement to our scripted demo which covers the products only at a very high level and showcasing the features we consider most appealing.

In any case, it looks like the product documentation will make it online with the next revision of the company's website. I might even get luck and talk people into release portions of our source code as well. Doing that might encourage some rogue Developer to build SharePoint integration application using our source code as the foundation and we might be able to charge him/her good bucks if/when they get stuck ...... who knows.

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