Ivan Hoffman, B.A., J.D.

I previously wrote an article called “10 Words That Can Help You Make Money.”  Let me add 35 additional such words in this article.

As I write this, I have been practicing intellectual property law for over 42 years.  Over those over 4 decades, my experience has taught me that some of the reasons people don’t know how to make money from their intellectual property can be boiled down to a few words.  The key concepts I have found to be at the heart of the reasons people don’t make money with their intellectual property come down to these 35 additional words plus the prior 10.  For want of a better term, let me refer to these as “Hoffman-isms.”

These Hoffman-isms are actually all related to each other but identify somewhat different aspects of the same problem. And the “same problem” is that many people do not have enough vision about their own business to see past the immediate situations they are in.  They do not see “down the road.”  They may offer excuses.  Read “The Need for Vision.”

Help me is almost always cheaper than fix me. SM (9 words)

Overall, intellectual property law (whether it be copyrights in music, books or anything else) is about agreements and licenses.   If you want to have others exploit your work, or if you are the party doing the exploiting, the value of your project almost always comes down to having thorough, clear and precise written agreements.  This means that it pays to spend time and money properly drafting or having drafted appropriate agreements that clearly and thoroughly say what you want those agreements to say.   That is the “help me.”  What creates disputes is almost always related to uncertainty, either because the agreement is poorly drafted or there is no agreement at all (see Hoffman-ism number 3 below). 

Litigation is the “fix me.”  Of course there is absolutely no guarantee that even with proper agreements, litigation can be avoided.  And of course as well, there is absolutely no guarantee that any litigation can actually “fix” your problem.  Every litigation is fraught with risk and uncertainty.  

However, in my career I have been at the litigation table as well as the negotiation table and the latter is infinitely less expensive than the former.  The reason I no longer handle litigation is because I did handle litigation earlier in my practice.  Litigation is one of the worst ways to resolve disputes and signals the failure of the negotiation process.  Many of these disputes are such that, with proper legal drafting and negotiation, uncertainty and vagary could have been avoided.  

Moreover, during the pendency of any litigation, the material that is the subject of the litigation is often unusable by any of the parties.  So in addition to the cost and expense of the litigation itself, there is the possibility of loss of income and ability to use the material, which is also expensive. 

So the entrepreneur understands that doing things right in the first place, the help me part, can go a long way toward preventing trying to fix things later on. 

It is not contracts that break up relationships but the “I thought you said…” stuff that comes from no contracts or poorly drafted contracts. SM  (24 words) 

People often believe that having an experienced attorney draft an appropriate agreement is going to break up the relationship they have (or actually in most instance only think they have) with the other party.  My experience is completely the opposite.  My experience has taught me that when all parties can read a well-drafted agreement and understand what their rights and obligations are, that that actually enhances the relationship.  When, on the other hand, there is uncertainty, then the “I thought you said…” stuff is what forms the basis for mistrust, suspicion and ultimately the end of the relationship. 

Think about your relationships outside of the context of business.  If you are unclear about another’s intentions, actions, fidelity etc., that is the breeding ground for the ending of that relationship.    If you are on solid ground, both emotionally and, in the business context, legally because it’s all written down clearly and thoroughly, both parties can feel confident in the other’s “fidelity.” 

Own Everything. SM (2 words) 

In today’s world, with new uses for intellectual property arising every day (phones, tablets, advertising space and concepts, the Internet now available on televisions, niche markets popping up everywhere, cross-marketing, name and likeness rights finding new opportunities), the parties that own the rights are the ones who are going to make money from the uses, now and well into the future.  

So if you own intellectual property rights, hang onto them.  If you decide to license some or all of those rights, work with an experienced attorney to make the best deals possible for your rights.  If you don’t own intellectual property rights, acquire them.  Read “Acquiring Rights.”  

And if you are not the actual creator of intellectual property, at least copyrights, then the only way you can acquire the kind of exclusive rights you need to “own everything,” is via a valid, thorough, written and signed agreement. Read “The Fundamental Principle Under United States Copyright Law.”   It is so important a concept that it is on every table of contents page. 

Now of course you probably won’t end up “owning everything” if you intend to make money from your creativity.  After all, generally you have to work with others to do so.  But if you wake up each day with the “own everything” mantra in front of you, at least you will start out the negotiation with that in mind and hopefully will be careful not to give away “everything.”  


It’s simple: See with vision.  Know what you don’t know and find someone who knows what you don’t know to help you.  

Copyright © 2015 Ivan Hoffman.  All Rights Reserved. 

All marks are service marks of Ivan Hoffman. 


This article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice.  This article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information.  This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed.  You should not rely on this article in any manner whatsoever and you should not draw any conclusions of any sort from this article.  The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you.  This article is based on United States laws but the laws of other countries may be different.  You should consult with an attorney familiar with the issues and the laws of your country.  This article does not create any attorney client relationship and is not a solicitation.


No portion of this article may be copied, retransmitted, reposted, duplicated or otherwise used without the express written approval of the author.



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