An unlikely source for our Foodie Friday Fun this week – the folks over at Freakonomics. I’m a big fan of both the books and the podcast because their whole schtick is looking at things very differently albeit from an economic point of view.  Today it’s the cronut, an invention by a NYC baker which is a cross between a doughnut and a croissant. As Freakonomics reports:

Cronuts are so popular that lines form at 6 a.m. — 2 hours before the shop opens — and Ansel runs out within minutes. Thanks to the wonders of the Internet (and Craigslist) there is even a cronut black market, with unauthorized cronut scalpers charging up to $40 apiece for home delivery (a mark up of 700%). And of course there are cronut knockoffs appearing all over the world. Ansel has even trademarked the name “cronut.”

So here we have an interesting and, hopefully, common problem – you do invent a better mousetrap although once it’s out there it’s not particularly hard to duplicate.  You can try to protect it via patents or trademarks but the former is costly (and the laws are changing) and the latter is hard to protect for something such as this.  Why?  Because it is almost a “generic” term such as Kleenex or Xerox (tissues and copying, respectively).  The article has a great overview of the laws involved if you’re interested.  So what can you do?

In two words, be better.  Two more:  be smarter.  You are, after, the original, and that’s an edge – sort of like what distinguishes the official sports league websites from all the other sports sites that are out there (scores and stats are commodity content, after all).  People like that – getting the original as long as the original lives up to its reputation (anyone think Hyrdox are better than Oreo’s?  Seriously?).  The inventor has a head start and it’s a small business.  Why blow the profits on enforcing the potentially unenforceable hundreds of miles away from your base of operation?  We don’t take the time often enough to think about the real value behind an argument made in principle.  What fees might come in from licensing the name to a bakery in LA?  What might it cost to get those fees?

I’ve never had a cronut.  I might even break my general eating habits to try one next time I’m in NYC (assuming I can get one).  What I won’t do – and what you shouldn’t either – is sacrifice smart business thinking over some grandiose idea.  Be better, be smarter, and you’ll reap the rewards.  You agree?

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