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Putting on your thinking cap.

by Dear Jon
September 9, 2003

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Sort 233_Dear Jon-Putting On Your Thinking Cap ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,

Recently I've found that people are coming up with ideas I had years ago, and are now making money. I do not know these people, or how they stole my idea, but how do I keep them from stealing anymore?

Sincerely,
Idea Guy


Dear Ide,

Obviously you are not referring to Dear Jon, since these “Dear Jon Letters” have not made me one thin dime.

There are many ways to steal ideas. One is called “patent theft.” Another is called “plagiarism.” These involve presenting another person’s achievement as one’s own, whether that achievement is the discovery of a cold fusion engine that runs on sweat socks and can be cheaply built by Mexican labor on either side of the border (“patent” theft), or the achievement of expressing a thought in a new and compelling way (plagiarism).

These are considered “intellectual property”, the theft of which, in the estimation of Western Civilization, is one of the worst crimes imaginable, punishable by expulsion from school, the stripping of awards, public disgrace, costly civil damages awarded to the plaintiff, censure by Congress, and promotion to staff reporter at the New York Times™.

If you are referring to this kind of theft, you have recourse through civil action. Of course, the soundness of the case depends first on whether you achieved something, which is more than having an idea about something, as Thomas Edison so wittily stated when he said “genius is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent cheap Mexican labor.” Second, to be guilty the other person must have stolen your achievement from you. If they arrived at their achievement independently, they are not guilty.

However, you speak of people stealing “ideas,” which is not at all the same as stealing achievements. I share your complaint. I find my ideas making money for other people all over the place. For example, ever since I moved out on my own and undertook certain domestic duties my mother and older sisters performed on my behalf because they loved me and desired my happiness, I would complain about the need for a special kind of cloth designed to pick up hair from bathroom tile. Lo and behold, twelve years later, the Swiffer™ arrived!

With the Super Big Gulp™ 7-11® made a bundle off of one of my ideas, which, as a twelve year-old, went something like this: “Why stop at 32 ounces?”

There is obviously a rampant wave of idea-stealing going on in our nation. These are dangerous times to be a person full of ideas. So, my first recommendation, is that you think less. The fewer ideas you have, the fewer ideas will be stolen, right?

Also, I call upon John Ashcroft to live up to the solemn duty of his office by creating a new arm of the Justice Department devoted to capturing and deterring the stealers of ideas. We can call this the Federal Office of Thought Police. They would have broad powers to basically be suspicious of everyone and everything all the time, since you never really know when someone is stealing an idea. To pass this legislation simply amend it to the Patriot Act.

Wait a minute! Mr. Attorney General, you weren’t thinking about stealing this idea, were you? Tsk tsk!

In the meantime, while we wait for the Federal Government to FINALLY live up to their OBLIGATION to take care of this PROBLEM for the betterment of ALL, you and me and people like us, Ide, we need to take precautions. I’m not talking about, you know, anything kooky. Why do people think we are kooky just because we want to protect what’s ours? They call us paranoid, Ide, but that is obviously because THEY don’t know what it’s like to see their own great, original ideas making money for other people.

So, to be sure you are protected, you need a personal Thought Defense System. A lead helmet mounted with a concave transmitter to jam the frequencies of mental brainwaves should do the trick. We have a limited edition, and the patent is pending. Send $150 dollars with your hat-size to “Dear Jon’s Thought Defense System, C/O The Partial Observer” and I will send you my Theft Proof Thinking Cap, which is either made in Mexico or not, but in any case we can sell these so cheaply because they are made by Mexicans.

(My supplier does not like it when I pry into his management system. Like the time he saw me down at what I thought was the address for the factory, and all I saw was an aluminum shed locked on the outside and surrounded by barbed wire, and beside it a large cage with a pack of cute little Bloodhounds, and he said he would deliver the helmets but that I shouldn’t be snooping in his business. Well, you know how it is: I’m a hands-off big picture kind of guy.)

Wear the Theft Proof Thinking Cap while having an idea, and I guarantee you that no one will steal your thoughts. In fact, they will leave them alone! That is no guarantee that people won’t come up with similar ideas independently, though. I am completely indemnified and released of all liability if that happens.

Right now I am having an idea about flying cars. I have to get my Theft Proof Thinking Cap from under my bed.

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