IP Goes Pop! – Lessons From Movies About Innovators

Get ready for a cinematic exploration of innovation and intellectual property as depicted in popular movies about inventors and creators. In this episode, IP Goes Pop! co-hosts Michael Snyder and Joseph Gushue peel back the layers of iconic movies that not only inspire us, but also shed light on the realities of building successful businesses and protecting ideas.

Starting with 1988’s Tucker: The Man and His Dream, your hosts dive into the story of Preston Tucker and his revolutionary automobile, the Tucker 48. This tale not only epitomizes the spirit of disrupting the status quo but also draws parallels with modern auto-innovators like Tesla. Tucker’s journey sheds light on the crucial role of patents in protecting groundbreaking ideas, emphasizing the continued real-world relevance of Tucker’s innovations in today’s automobiles.

The episode next moves through the intricate mazes of copyrights, branding, and partnerships. The Social Network, which depicts the founding of Facebook, serves as a prime example of the potential legal pitfalls that can emerge in the creation of successful companies. It delves into the entangled web of legal battles and the importance of safeguarding ideas in the tech world. This evolution, of what is now known as Meta, highlights the necessity of meticulous contracts and legal representation at different stages of bringing an idea into the world.

Another extraordinary origin story is that of the McDonald’s franchise, as portrayed in The Founder. While the success of the McDonald’s franchise demonstrates how effective branding and strategic IP licensing can catapult a company to global recognition, this cautionary tale of partnerships offers valuable lessons for businesses of all sizes. Ultimately the McDonalds brothers lost control of their company, their name, and their IP such as the “golden arches,” when they were outmaneuvered by an emboldened Ray Kroc and a “handshake” agreement.

The film Flash of Genius draws attention to the pitfalls and triumphs of patent litigation. Lesson learned are especially valuable for inventors and creators, as it underscores the complexities of litigation, the importance of having competent legal representation, and the dangers of self-representation in intellectual property matters.

Listeners will come away from this episode not only entertained but also enriched with a deeper understanding of the intersection between intellectual property and popular culture. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a legal professional, a student, or simply a movie buff, IP Goes Pop! offers a captivating and educational experience that will entertain and inform. Don’t miss out on this engaging and enlightening journey through the world of IP and movies!

Episode Timestamps:

2:32 Disruption, Technology, and Patents in Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988)

  • Preston Tucker’s innovations and the pushback from the “Big Three”
    • Steering wheel-mounted instrument panel 1947
    • Other patents by Tucker
  • Jeff Bridges
  • Tucker 48 Cars
  • Tesla

9:40 Copyright and Idea Protection in The Social Network (2010)

  • Synopsis of the film
  • The legal challenges to Facebook’s founding and in developing successful companies as a whole
  • Winklevoss Brothers
  • The importance of protecting intellectual property: confidentiality agreements and tangible mediums
  • Diversification of Facebook into Meta
  • Arrested Development Fakeblock

16:43 Branding, Trade Secrets, and Franchising in The Founder (2016)

  • McDonald brothers and the origin of McDonald’s
  • Michael Keaton as Ray Kroc
  • Efficiency and franchising that led to McDonald’s success
  • Example of Ray Kroc taking control from original founders
  • Planet Hollywood and scaling a franchise
    • importance of uniformity and quality control in franchising
  • Importance of clear agreements and cautious partnerships
  • Two Pesos, Inc. vs. Taco Cabana case, Supreme Court, 1992
    • The look and feel of a restaurant could be protected by trade dress laws, similar to that which protects packaging of goods
    • Pizza Hut roof

25:04 The Case of Joy Mangano‘s Miracle Mop in Joy (2015)

  • Jennifer Lawrence as Joy
  • Challenges Joy faced due to a supposed similar patent in Hong Kong
    • The importance of due diligence in checking for existing patents worldwide

28:55 Patents in Flash of Genius (2008)

  • Robert Williams Kearns
  • History of the invention of intermittent wipers
  • Cautions of self-representation in law
  • Parallels to the Wright Brothers
  • Trusting and seeking advice from professionals
  • Inventions made from existing/off-the-shelf parts

34:16 Final Thoughts

  • Doing your due diligence in protecting your ideas
  • Moving deliberately and seeking advice to avoid blind spots

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