DEAR HARRIETTE: I got an email with an invitation for an event that sounds eerily like an event that I have been planning. The organizer is a woman I know, and I'm almost certain that I shared my idea with her a few months ago. Never mind the fact that I haven't gotten my act together to make my event happen, but she is the last person I would have imagined to steal my idea. Now, here's my predicament: I didn't copyright the party plan. I don't think I have legal legs to stand on, but I really do want to tell this woman how disappointed I am that she would steal my idea. Do you think I should say something or just move on? -- Late to the Party, New York City
DEAR LATE TO THE PARTY: Your story proves something that is common wisdom -- keep your ideas to yourself until you manifest them. Obviously, you may want to talk to a small think tank of folks you trust, but it is easy for someone else to bite off of a good idea that is in the air. It is quite possible that this woman may not even remember your initial idea. It is possible that she did not get the idea from you, either. It's uncanny how multiple people can ride a trend at the very same time, often without knowing each other at all.
That said, if you honestly believe you told this woman about your idea, you can contact her and let her know that you are concerned that she borrowed from your idea. The best you will likely get is an apology. You can consult an attorney, but without some type of legal documentation that proves that this idea started as your intellectual property, it is unlikely that you will be able to wrestle back control.