Why is intellectual property important in aviation marketing?  Or, to put it another way, let’s say you’re a speaker, author,  aircraft broker, doctor, lawyer, insurance agent. You write an article, blog post or produce a video or podcast, who owns that content?

Or, let’s say you’re an aviation company that hires a marketing firm.  That firm creates videos, articles or other materials for you, who owns those materials?

Marketing produces assets, like advertisements, web sites, brochures, articles, videos, and other items that a company uses to sell its products and services.   The ownership of those assets is just as important as the ownership or use conditions of your company’s facilities, aircraft, and equipment!

Why are Marketing Consultants Talking About Intellectual Property?

Intellectual PropertyBut first, why are we talking about Intellectual Property, if our sole mission is to help aviation companies sell more of their products and services?

Because in some cases, the loss or confusion about intellectual property can rob aviation sales and marketing professionals of the tools their best tools.

So, in this episode, we’re talking about

  • Why Protect Your Intellectual Property? (IP?)
  • How to Protect Your Intellectual Property


John and I have both worked for Fortune 50 companies, and we know how incredibly restrictive many of them can be about intellectual property.

In the early 2000s, many didn’t allow employees to have blogs or accounts on social media.  Why? Because they were so worried about employees having their own voice or their own public presence that was not controlled by the company.  They’re worried about their image. They’re worried about trade secrets.  They’ve become much less restrictive in the last few years.  But we’ve found that many companies in the aviation industry have the opposite problem.  Most aviation companies don’t pay ENOUGH attention to intellectual property and copyright protection, sometimes with catastrophic effects.

This episode was inspired by a post by our dear friend, Benét Wilson, on Facebook.

Benét’s post illustrated the way two musicians handled their performance at the Coachella music festival.

On the surface, Ariana Grande got the better deal. She was paid $8 million for her performance, while Beyonce was only paid $4 million.

However, Beyonce retained the exclusive rights to recordings of her performance, and was able to package the recording as a live album and a streaming program on Netflix. The Netflix streaming rights alone were worth $60 million!

Intellectual Property for Non-Rock Stars

Here are a few examples of intellectual property protection, that are closer to home for most of us that only sing in the shower.

An aircraft broker we know worked for a particular firm, then left the firm.

Who owns the blog posts he wrote while an employee?

That depends almost entirely on what agreement he had with his employer.

Some employers, like those Fortune 50 companies John and I have worked for in the past, have VERY restrictive intellectual property phrasing in their employee agreements.

Most aviation companies have much more informal hiring processes, and may have a very elementary employment agreement that isn’t clear about intellectual property.

In any case, it’s a bit more awkward to bring the question up AFTER the materials are published!

In another example, an aviation software company hires someone to create an application or “mobile app,”  or to adapt its software to run on Windows or Linux or some other platform.

Who owns the source code of this application?

Of course, in this case, there’s a legal answer and a practical answer- if the software is very specialized and not very well documented, the company may “own” the source code, but has no option but to work with the original developer because no one else understands it or can work with it.

This applies to web sites as well – if you create a web site in a proprietary app like SquareSpace or Weebly, and you decide to move to a different provider, you may not be able to separate the content from the proprietary design elements and have to start your website design practically from scratch, even if you own the words and most of the images.

How to Protect your Intellectual Property (IP)

Some thoughts about how to protect your Intellectual Property:

  • Read your employment and contracting employments! (Whether you’re hiring or getting hired!)
  • Read your property purchase or lease agreements (airports are notoriously restrictive about what you can do at your facility.)
  • Use open source tools whenever possible (like WordPress for your web site)
  • Use royalty-free or rights-purchased music, photography and art in your marketing materials.
  • Work with a marketing company that specifies that everything produced becomes your property upon publication (ABCI always does this.)
  • Negotiate ownership early in any new relationship. It’s much less awkward than discussing at the end of a relationship!
  • Publish content (articles, videos, etc.) on your own site first.
  • Talk to a good business lawyer about intellectual property law and how it applies to your own situation, whether copywrite trademark or some other protection for your industrial designs, services or processes is a good idea.
  • This will vary based on your state laws and common law


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