22 March 2017, afternoon...
"Ideas are cheap." When I heard these words from one of my professors during a grad school class, I wanted to disagree. Then...
There is no such thing as a million dollar idea. Ideas are not considered intellectual property under US law. They are neither patentable nor copyrightable. Given the number of ideas that we ultimately reject, ideas might even be considered to be the effluvia of cognitive processes. Ideas may be rated on a scale from "good" to "bad," or "fanciful" to "pragmatic." But, unless implemented, they are just so much mental masturbation.
Implementation is what gives an idea value. And a given idea is generally susceptible to multiple implementations. It is the implementation that is protected under intellectual property law. The right idea with the right implementation may indeed be a million dollar design.
While it may have been "your" idea, if someone takes the idea behind your design and applies a different implementation thereby producing a new design, that person did not "steal" your idea. And that new design is afforded the same intellectual property protection as yours. Get over it. The only way to keep an idea under wraps is to never make it or its implementations public.
So, my message to all you idea folks out there: implement. If you cannot implement, find someone who can and work as a creative team. Continue to keep those idea notebooks because ideas do tend to be ephemeral unless committed to paper, either tangible or electronic. But choose the ones that most inspire you and implement as many as you can. And if you see a design that is built on a good idea, consider a different implementation, a new design on an old idea. That's creativity.
Deborah K Smith, PhD
As a self-proclaimed mixed media artist and creative professional, I am in my 3rd career, having spent 15 years as a software developer and another 15 as a university professor. My first love and my most demanding one has always been creating whether it be a drawing, a bit of crocheted lace, a cloth doll, a piece of software, a PhD dissertation, or a piece of digital art. I simply LOVE to make things and I see make and make-over opportunities everywhere. My only regret is that there is no possible way that I can live long enough to make all of the things I see in my mind.