Stealing Ideas. What is acceptable?

CORE Journal: Intellectual Integrity

Jose Caballer
Dec 7, 2019 · 5 min read

I writing this as my response to a conversation that Chris Do started on The Futur’s Pro group.

So here is what is happening. Someone created and is selling an exact replica of CORE, the design strategy framework that I created. Sooooo.

The question is: Can you copy someones Intellectual Property, repackage it and sell it as your own?

The first thing to say is that I am not a lawyer. I do have an IP lawyer. But this post is not their point of view. This is just me. My point of view.
“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”

Here are my 3 points in this post:

  1. Yes, everything is a remix. “Steal like an Artist…” Yada, yada, yada
  2. Intellectual integrity is a community issue.
  3. No, it’s not ok to copy, repackage and sell someone else's course.

Everything is a Remix

CORE 1.9 and CORE Discovery are synthesized collections of exercises from different practices. What makes them unique is Why for Whom and how they were put together. There are a lot of people to acknowledge for both versions.

My colleagues on the process committee at Razorfish in 1998 get the credit for the brand exercise. I told and thanked Jeff Dachis the founding CEO of Razorfish about this when we were using CORE to create his new startup One Drop. The Customer Profiles also are a shorter synthesized version of User Profiles from multiple sources. But still credit to Karen McGrane who headed UX at Razorfish and I got to learn from over my 6 years there.

The Business Priorities exercise was the brainchild of Barrett Morse who is a mad genius of process and frameworks in his own right. He was also a partner at The Groop and helped develop our practice. The new Data Matching is also his brainchild. We jammed on that on the whiteboard on YouTube in 2012 or so.

My point is that it has taken a village to create CORE Discovery. But here is the thing, throughout the years as we have made CORE into a product I’ve made it a point to mention and thank the sources for the work. I still maintain relationships with all of them. And they are happy that I have managed to make CORE into something useful for the world and make money at it.

I have conducted myself with Integrity.

Intellectual Integrity is a Community Issue

When it comes to ideas there is a process and a code of conduct that most artists use. Attribution, licensing, requests for permission, etc. For example, Alex Zorit from La Corvata just launched a video series about the principles that myself and The Futur teach. He did a great job at giving credit and attribution to the ideas. That is integrity. I am excited to share his work and to help him grow. Specially because it is in Spanish. And my spanish speaking brothers and sisters will benefit from it.

Alex Zorit from La Corvata

You get away with what your community allows you to get away with. Truth always wins. As this community and movement grows we need to have honest conversations about what it means to create content and to create businesses around your content.

No, It’s Not Ok

I have a copy of the Strategy Framework that is being sold. And yes, it is word by word the CORE Framework. Very little has been changed in terms of content. Style yes. But the content is the same. So it’s clear that as a designer there is a lack of understanding of the idea of “Work Product” vs “Style.” This would be easy to forgive if it wasn’t for the fact that many people worked hard to build The Futur, CORE and the businesses that those ideas have become.

There is of course a lot of legal predecessors for this issue. Fast fashion suffers from this on the style level. China is famous for copying products and ideas and selling them. I have a friend of a friend who makes a living from original content online that shared with me that half his day is spent with lawyers sending letters to people who copy his content and resell it or use it without authorization. The only thing that he can do is move faster to produce content and come out with new innovative content. And sue a lot of people. It’s also a large multi-million dollar business and multi-billion dollar industry. But he does not produce education or frameworks. Just subscription based video.

So to repeat and clarify my position. It’s not ok.

What should you do as a community member if you want to share these amazing ideas?

First I encourage people to share CORE Discovery with their clients. In the context of service work. Change the names, modify as needed and use it to grow your business. That is the whole damn point.

If you want to create a content business like Chris Do did. Great go for it. But have integrity. Give credit. Ask for permission.

If you want to do a strategy framework based on CORE and sell it. At LEAST make something uniquely yours. Borrow the mechanics, add to it. Modify it. Make it so that more than 50% of the “Work Product” is uniquely yours. Provide some value to your customers that is unique to YOU. Remix. Don’t put a mustache on the Mona Lisa and call yourself Leonardo.

I stole this image from Just Kidding.

If you want to license it and do another version, in another language, for another industry or for any reason. Reach out to The Futur, reach out to me. Talk to us. We are entrepreneurs. We love to grow.

Does that make sense?


Does the copy framework pass the test of Intellectual Integrity. No it doesn’t. Should the community support it. No it should not. I have been “Chill” about it because I play the long game. Things don’t become a problem in this industry until there is scale. And here we are. At scale. Chris Do has grown The Futur very successfully and now are seeing some of the symptoms of success.

Finally to quote my homie Jesus. “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”

I have a lot of love for our community. For Chris Do, for everyone who has created this movement. (And yes that what was the intention) Let’s keep building it. But don’t be a douche. You can quote me on that.

Much love,


Jose Caballer

Written by

Design experimentalist, facilitator, amateur chef, meditation enthusiast

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