“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” Robert C. Mattern
You didn’t know that I was the author of the above and oft-quoted insight? That’s because I wasn’t. In fact, the author of that particular quote was none other than Abraham Lincoln. It turns out, simply by putting quotation marks around something and adding your name doesn’t confer you the rights and honors to it. There are, for instance, legal protections that have been in place for a couple odd centuries in that regard, but also there’s just plain good manners.
Confidentiality and proprietary agreements, copyrights, non-disclosure agreements, patents–these are but some of the tools meant to protect the rights and property of someone who has spent time, money, and creativity developing something of value whether that is an invention , a song or a poem. Most people know you cannot use these things without permission and/or compensation.
At Mattern & Associates we develop and execute many cutting edge ideas for the support services and cost recovery areas of the legal market; some of our more innovative processes are pending patent approval. Our requests for proposals (RFPs), on the other hand, are copyrighted. I was surprised recently, then, to review an RFP from a vendor in the legal industry who had co-opted one of our copyrighted RFPs and sent the RFP out with no acknowledgement of where the process had come from, but had , essentially, simply stuck some quotation marks around it and put their name at the end of it.
Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but I wasn’t flattered; I was shocked. I was shocked because: 1. the copyright infringement occurred in the legal space where you’d think all parties would be more than aware of the protections and rights involved, and 2. the bad manners it exhibited, and quite frankly 3. intellectual laziness of co-opting someone else’s work.
I don’t know what Abraham Lincoln would say, but I’ll keep this as the takeaway for now from this situation, that when it comes to requests for proposals, “What you want, baby, I got it.”*
*Not Rob Mattern, but Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul