A request for proposal from Blackberry with a particular clause is such a turn-off for public relations agencies that one agency has refused the opportunity to pitch to them.
BlackBerry wants to hire a Singapore-based public relations firm which will be able to make it "a serious enterprise software player and leader in cybersecurity and digital transformation in the ASEAN region."
But a clause in the request states that Blackberry would own the proposal and any materials submitted by the PR agency during the pitch.
This is the contentious clause, according to Mumbrella, which has seen the proposal: "All proposals and related materials submitted shall become the property of BlackBerry, which reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to reject or request modification of any or all proposals, and use without limitation or liability any and/or all ideas from the proposals."
It reports agencies are "outraged" by the terms.
Blackberry also requires a PR strategy for the local launch of its upcoming Spark platform. The company, formerly known as Research In Motion, used to be a major player in the mobile phone industry. It failed to keep up with competition from Apple and Android phones and fell by the wayside. But it has since transformed itself into a software company.
Blackberry has not commented on this matter.
Idea theft is an age old problem among PR and ad agencies, which are wary of revealing their ideas in pitches as their clients could reject the ideas and execute them themselves, or give the idea to another agency that is willing to do it for a lower price.
A recent example is the case of beer company BrewDog being accused of using a specific idea by its former creative agency Manifest. While under retainer, Manifest pitched BrewDog an idea for its launch of a non-alcoholic beer, but BrewDog rejected the idea. After BrewDog stopped working with Manifest, it launched its new product with an idea that is very similar to Manfest's.
In order to compensate the time and resources agencies invest in a pitch, some clients in the industry have started paying pitch fees, which can range from several hundred to a few thousand dollars.
But pitch fees do not solve the problem of idea theft. In fact, they might muddle the power relationships between the parties. Some clients might presume that paying a pitch fee means they have the right to use the ideas pitched to them.
We might argue that it takes education to get the errant clients to have respect for intellectual property, but how soon, if ever, will this become reality?