Personal Finance

Making money from your brilliant ideas

One cannot claim ownership rights over an idea as ideas are subject to public domain.
One cannot claim ownership rights over an idea as ideas are subject to public domain. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Is it possible to make money out of your ideas? I have encountered some people who are naturally gifted with a creative mind. Their creativity allows them to process very many ideas that if implemented would assist very many sectors. Unfortunately in most cases, the ideas end up being lost or lack of implementation.

Is it therefore possible to make money out of ideas perhaps by selling the ideas or exchanging them? It is difficult to sell an idea when it is just an idea or a concept. However if one takes further steps to convert those ideas into intangible property then it is quite possible to monetise your idea.

In law, there is no property right given over a concept or an idea. One cannot claim ownership rights over an idea as ideas are subject to public domain. One can even copy an idea you have and there is very little you can do to stop that as ideas do not amount to property rights.

However when you take steps to protect your idea by getting intellectual property rights over them then it is possible to monetise it. Depending on the nature of your idea it is possible to secure intellectual property rights like copyrights, trademarks, patents and industrial designs which are the main intellectual property rights available. Once you secure an intellectual property right by registration then you are well on your way to monetisation.

All property have a value and it is possible to have a valuation of your intellectual property right done. It is valued as an intangible asset and there are three main ways the valuation is done. One is the cost-based approach where the valuation is dependent on development costs. Some of the costs would include actual expenses and time spent developing the idea, otherwise known as sweat capital. The second approach is to use the net present value and the last approach is to use the value of a similar product.


Intellectual property valuation is still fairly new in Kenya, and there are very few experts who do it. A common method I have experienced is that instead of intellectual property valuation, valuers value the shares of the company that owns the intellectual property.

Once your intellectual property is valued, then the next step is to have a commercialisation strategy. This is where you settle on a monetisation method depending on your needs. You may choose to sell your intellectual property altogether, or license it in exchange for royalties. In the latter method, you retain ownership of the asset but allow third parties to use it on exchange for a fee called a license.

In more developed economies there exist what are called intellectual property exchanges. These are platforms that have been set up for the buying and selling of traded intellectual property rights. It may be possible to list your intellectual property right on such an exchange. I believe that going forward, ideas that have market utility can be monetised therefore creating wealth for the owners.

Patent trolling is a practise where some individuals secure patent rights over various innovations and earn their money from filing infringement cases in court. This is where individuals register patents that they do not even intend to use, waiting to file for damages if a third party seeks to use the same innovation.

I deem it unethical. However, patent trolling happens a lot. A more ethical way to make money would be to monetise your intellectual property right by selling or licensing it to a willing user.