Read D.F.'s bio and previous columns
April 28, 2008
Don’t Read This Column;
You want to know the most overused word in business?
(Do come back, of course, so you can learn next week’s most overused
word in business.)
The word basically means, “We don’t want you to see or know about this!”
If these people were cool, they would stop using the word proprietary
and call the stuff “top secret.” Now you’re talking intrigue!
When you call something proprietary, it sounds like you’re keeping it
under wraps because some dopey lawyer told you to.
The problem with stuff that’s proprietary is that, a lot of the time, it
includes the company’s best selling points. A cool piece of technology
that turns dead mite skeletons into guitars. A new idea for how to
approach customer service. (Like, maybe, “serve the customer”.) Or a
product that allows you to easily put a GPS tracker on your cat so you
can find her if she runs away, unless you’d rather not.
You’d think companies would want to tell everyone about stuff like this,
but a lot of the time they’re too worried about their competitors
copying it – so they make everyone sign confidentiality agreements not
to talk about it.
This especially complicates the lives of marketing agencies, who get
hired to promote and publicize, but have to sign agreements that they
will never tell anyone about all the cool things their clients do.
But even that, as silly as it is, can be somewhat justified by
intellectual property concerns. Or at least that’s what I know some
intellectual property lawyer was just getting ready to write in an
e-mail to me:
“You idiot, Krause! You
don’t understand anything about why businesses keep information
proprietary! You don’t understand that the nature of their technology
may be the only thing that gives them a leg up on the competition, and
that if they let this information become public, they would lose all the
value it holds! This is why you write such drivel! Because you don’t
know what you’re talking about!”
Oh, I understand all that. I think the obsession with it can be kind of
stupid. But understand it I do.
What I don’t understand is why people insist on playing the
“proprietary” card as a power trip within their own companies.
“Pat, is the marketing plan ready?”
“Yes, it’s in the final
“Great. Can I see it?”
“I’m afraid I can’t do
“But I work here!”
“Were we negotiating?”
“You just made that up.”
“My nine o’clock is
“It’s quarter to two.”
“La la la la la!”
You know Pat’s just power-tripping. Whoever heard of a proprietary
marketing plan, for crying out loud? As soon as you start marketing,
everyone will know what you’re doing anyway.
oh. Here come the e-mails.
“Krause, you idiot! You
don’t know anything about . . .”
© 2008 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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