Are your customers stealing your training materials? Too many trainers have a story or two about their clients or other trainers stealing their intellectual property. Just imagine, over the years you have produced or created efficient lesson plans, instructive hand-outs and effective ice-breakers, only to see others running with your materials.
Says Clare: “I have had my materials copied from my book published by Gower, put in front of me at a client meeting as an example of the standard ‘they’ aimed for and produced. I had changed my name so they didn’t realise it was me. Much shuffling when I told them.”
Protect Your Property
What can you do to protect your intellectual property, or to see to it that you get compensated for your hard work? Here are a few strategies for protecting your ip or dealing with ip theft.
- Stop producing your own material. Instead, make a list of books, videos and websites for you trainees to prepare with. This renders the point of stealing moot, but it also makes you completely dependent on the training materials others provide. If everybody followed this strategy, there wouldn’t be any training materials left. And you won’t be able to create any bespoke materials.
- Include your email address and website url in the content, e.g. embedded in graphics. This doesn’t prevent theft, but it does make it easier to prove you’re the author.
- Include your name and contact details in the footer of all handouts and other paper materials, for the same reason as above.
- Some trainers have seen their materials included in a tender or proposal stolen. You could have the customer sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) to prevent this, but probably only if you’ve already got a lot of clout with that particular customer.
- In most civilized countries, you automatically own the copyrights as an author or creator, but it never hurts to liberally include copyright notices.
- Trademark your materials. Again, this makes it much easier to proceed with legal steps when push comes to shove.
- Use online training. It’s a lot harder to steal tests, assessments, and assignments when they’re offered through an online training platform (or lms). And you can’t properly steal text message (sms) reminders, email refreshers and an entire community of alumni participants – all of which can be accommodated through an online training platform.
If you do find that customers or third parties are using your materials without your permission, send them a cease and desist letter, accompanied by an invoice and a proposal for the continued use of the materials – for a price of course.
Clients Stealing from You Is Actually A Good Thing
If, in spite of all the countermeasures, customers continue to steal your training content, then that means it’s very valuable to them. That probably also means you could sell your materials to a broader audience. You could even use it as your marketing story: “Teresa’s training materials are so good that other trainers badly needed them – to the point of stealing them. That’s why she decided to create a handbook which contains all the materials plus an instructive guideline on how to use them!”
So, your stealing customers may point you in the direction of publishing your training materials or even starting your own franchise business. To get started, hand out freebies, encourage people to distribute these freely; create digital products which are easier to copy and share.
In conclusion, don’t worry too much about customers or other trainers stealing your training materials. Give them some more to “steal” so they’ll spread the word for your fledgling franchise business.1 comment