David Hamilton, 2015 IP Video Contest Winner

david-h-captionYoung People Need More and Easier Options to Use IP Legally

At the IPO Annual Meeting in Chicago, 17-year-old David Hamilton’s winning entry to the 2015 IP Video Contest managed to keep a crowd of around 1,000 IP lawyers laughing for its one-and-a-half minute duration. Based on the story of Otto Frederick Rohwedder’s automatic bread slicing machine, which was patented in 1932, Mr. Hamilton’s video employs humor to drive home the importance of patents in bringing life-changing products to market.

Mr. Hamilton’s future lies in video production, rather than inventing, but he acknowledges that IP will play a crucial role in his career and feels that the contest helped to expand his repertoire–both within his future field and otherwise. “It inspired me to research a little bit more about IP,” he says. “I definitely didn’t want to make any copyright mistakes in this video!”

Mr. Hamilton spoke with Innovator Insights about how he came up with his hilarious winning video, his personal experiences with IP and what he and his peers think about IP protection.

What inspired your video?

At first, I didn’t really have a good idea. I was trying to think of someone I knew who had recently patented something, or someone in my community I could refer to, but I couldn’t find one. So at one point I was considering not doing it, but then I realized I could think historically. I thought, “What is some interesting story I can look at and find enough information about to tell?” One day, I was brainstorming and talking to my mom and I thought, “You know that phrase ‘the greatest thing since sliced bread’? I wonder when sliced bread was invented.”

Did you have any understanding of patents or IP prior to making the video?

It’s pretty much unavoidable to have some knowledge of IP, especially copyright. This was not my first video contest, and you have to be careful about what you include in videos when you’re making them; you can’t just rip music, you have to get the rights for any content you use. So I knew more about copyright than patents—most of my knowledge about patents [before making the video] probably came from watching the show, Shark Tank.

What did you think about copyright laws?

You can’t have a perfect system that’s always fair, but the world is better off with than without the patent system.

To some degree, copyright can be a little bit of a nuisance to keep track of, but I definitely see the necessity for it, because if you don’t have laws and rules about what you can use, then people can’t make a living off of their creations. It’s hard, for instance, for artists to make a living off of their music—very few can anyway, but if their music is just going to be stolen without any royalty or profit for them, it’s even harder. There won’t be as much good IP created without a means for protecting it.

How do you think other people your age view patent laws?

When most people think about patents, they think of that thing that infomercials brag about their products having; there’s less of an everyday, conscious interaction with patents than there is with copyright, but you don’t think about it as much, because fewer people are going to infringe on a patent, unless they’re selling products of their own.

People—especially young people—do buy fake products online though that violate patents and trademarks; why do you think they do?

People do; there’s a whole market of fake technology, or real technology that is infringing on patents, and it’s dishonest. I don’t think anybody wants to buy a fake iPhone, for instance, though. Most of those products you don’t know about. You just see them advertised online and buy them thinking they’re the real thing. People don’t have a high perception of that at all; the only people happy in those cases are the ones selling the fake technology.

Did you learn anything from entering the contest?

Yes, because patents are not something I would normally think about a lot. There will always be issues with the system—you can’t have a perfect system that’s always fair, but it’s necessary, and the world would be much different and is better off with than without the patent system.

IP is the expression of creativity, or an idea that you express in a tangible way; in some cultures, people might continue to be creative without it, but in our society, you do need to protect your work or there wouldn’t be as much incentive to make things. If it’s just an Internet meme you want to create, that’s one thing, but when money starts getting involved, you have to protect against corruption with something like the patent system.

How do you think companies and IP owners can inspire more respect for their IP? They have tried tactics from suing to making content more easily accessible—what do you think works best?

If there are legal ways for people to use IP, they will be more willing to do that—as long as it’s easy and doable. If it involves writing letters to the production company and artist, no one is going to do that.

If it’s a big deal, you do have to sue—there’s not much reason for your IP to have been protected in the first place if you’re not going to follow through. But I like the approach of making more and easier ways of buying and licensing music, for instance—or any IP—to people. When videos get taken down by YouTube is another example—if there were more ways to legally use things like that, they would make more money, because people are going to use the content regardless. If there are legal ways for people to use IP, they will be more willing to do that—as long as it’s easy and doable. If it involves writing letters to the production company and artist, no one is going to do that, but if there’s an easy way, they will. This is starting to happen already on YouTube to some extent, where you are allowed to use content under certain conditions, and I think more people will use content legally that way. So, create more options, make it easier and make a clearer path to doing it.

Mr. Hamilton and the other IP Video Contest winners will be awarded on December 8 in Washington D.C., during the IPO Education Foundation’s 8th Annual Awards Dinner, to be held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum& National Portrait Gallery.