Peter Thiel, meet Aiden Durham

Note: This is the second of several blog posts devoted to Week 4/Module 4 of my business law course (Tiger King edition).

In my previous post, I provided an overview of Module 4 of my business law survey course. Module 4 is devoted to intellectual property rights, or what I like to call the “Law of Ideas.” I begin this module by painting the big picture with the help of Aiden Durham, a business lawyer in Denver, Colorado, whose YouTube channel (“All Up in Yo’ Business”) contains an accessible and absorbing series of videos on various aspects of business law, including intellectual property law. (FYI: Here is a link to her excellent YouTube channel.) Most law videos on YouTube are horrible, beginning with my own! Ms Durham’s videos, by contrast, are a refreshing change of pace. By way of example, here is her highly entertaining and engaging IP law explainer video:

The remainder of this module delves into the details of copyrights and trademarks, but in the remainder of this post, I want to further explain why IP law should be an essential part of any business law survey course. To see why, check out the first 90 seconds of these remarks made by Peter Thiel in 2015:

In brief, Peter Thiel makes two really important points in that video. First off, he says that, in order to succeed in the world of business, you have to have a good idea. That is, you have come up with a product or service that people would want to use. Alas, a good idea alone is not enough to succeed in business. In addition to having a good idea, you also have to figure out a way of capturing some of the value of your idea, or in Mr Thiel’s own words: “you have to create X dollars of value for the world, and you have to capture Y percent of X.” The problem, however, as Mr Thiel makes clear, is that X and Y are completely independent variables!

Here is where the Law of Ideas comes into play. Whether it be trade secrets, design patents or utility patents, copyrights, or trademarks or service marks, this area of law is what allows inventors and business firms to capture some of the value generated by their ideas. In plain English, if you want to succeed in business, you first have to come up with an original idea, but once you do this, you still need to find a way of protecting your ownership of that idea (or of the expression of that idea), and this is what the Law of Ideas allows you to do. Although Mr Thiel does not discuss intellectual property rights in his remarks (in the video clip above), I drew this crucial connection one day after reading this remarkable essay by my colleagues David Orozco and Robert Bird. (Below is a screenshot of the cover page of their paper. Also, shout out to my friend and co-author Sean P. Melvin, who brought this beautiful paper to my attention many years ago.)

With this background in mind, I will describe the rest of my week 4 IP module in the next day or two …

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About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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