How to Protect an Idea: Everything You Need to Know
Companies can take a couple of steps to prevent theft after they start sharing their concepts with others.8 min read
2. Avoid Revealing Too Much
3. Use Non-Disclosure Agreements
4. Apply for a Provisional Patent
5. Trademark Your Name
6. Research the Recipients
7. Follow Your Instincts
8. Document, Document, Document
9. How to Protect Your Business Idea Without a Patent
10. Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA)
11. Non-compete Agreement
12. Work-for-hire Agreement
13. How to Protect Your Business Idea with a Provisional Patent
14. Three Ways to Protect Your Original Idea
15. Who Can You Trust?
How to Protect an Idea
As a business grows, pitching turns out to be increasingly important. Because the business seeks investors, new customers, and even new employees, a business owner often reveals the particulars of the business to others. The concept of theft is an ongoing concern for many business owners who see themselves as being on the forefront of the market. A competitor might snatch the concept and put it into use, leaving the business with little recourse.
Nonetheless, whereas the overwhelming majority of individuals are not out there to steal your concept, it can happen by a chance. Companies can take a couple of steps to prevent theft after they start sharing their concepts with others.
Avoid Revealing Too Much
A good method to safeguard your concept is to reveal solely the necessary information. When you are pitching a concept to a possible buyer, provide only essential information to convey the concept. It is not essential to share all elements of how your product works. One exception to this is when you are pitching to investors or lenders who will probably need to know everything about your product before investing in your business.
Use Non-Disclosure Agreements
A non-disclosure settlement will help shield your concept before revealing it to staff or different associates. Many buyers will refuse to sign an NDA before you converse with them. For that reason, you might have to surrender the necessary information if you need buyers. The same holds true for potential investors. As an alternative to requiring a signature, think about printing a confidentiality statement in your marketing strategy.
Apply for a Provisional Patent
A patent can be way more expensive than a startup. To secure your concept, a provisional patent can shield it for the first 12 months. After 12 months, the provisional patent expires with no option to renew it.
Trademark Your Name
A trademark can present an extra layer of safety, because an organization’s identity is commonly tied to its concept. By registering a trademark, you have even more added safety in the event of theft. The documentation that you complete when registering a trademark is a written proof that the concept you are promoting is your original idea. It also establishes the precise date your concept was registered to you if another person tries to dispute this truth.
Research the Recipients
Whether you are revealing a concept to a possible investor, a potential customer, or a contractor, investigate that particular person or firm before your appointment. With the internet, the information is easily accessible; a business owner can check out an individual before deciding to do business with that particular person. He/she can search for any disputes with earlier business companions and ensure that this person is established in his or her chosen discipline.
Follow Your Instincts
Along with investigating the parties involved, you can follow your personal instincts. Typically alarm bells go off if you’re in a state of affairs that would present some hazard. If somebody is genuinely listening to each attainable aspect of your creation, ask yourself what that particular person’s motive is. Is his/her motive to attain a higher position? Is it mere curiosity? Or is it possible that the particular person has cash he/she would like to invest?
When you’re interacting with someone who has many years of expertise within the business world and has a portfolio of corporations, that particular person may not need to steal anybody else’s concept. When you’re talking to a newcomer though, you should reveal as little about what you are promoting as possible until you find out that particular person’s motive.
Document, Document, Document
Put as much in writing as possible and save that documentation as a proof of your idea in the courtroom. Create a log for each dialogue in which you are disclosing the particulars of what you are promoting. Your fears that the product you are promoting will be stolen prevent you from getting suggestions from others.
Once you discuss your concept with someone new, he/she can offer you new ideas that can help you further develop your idea. By not discussing what you are promoting with others, you miss that opportunity.
How to Protect Your Business Idea Without a Patent
It is reasonable to worry that your concept could be stolen. However, you often cannot turn your imagination into reality without the assistance of others. Ultimately, you are going to need the advice of someone knowledgeable to judge your services or products. You will have to collaborate with a producer or distributor. Patents can cost a lot of money and take years to be issued. By bringing your product to market, you'll be able to afford the lengthy wait.
When you find something concerning after researching for patent information or collaborators online, contemplate asking about it. As everyone knows, not everything on the internet is true. When collaborators’ business practices appear sketchy before you even begin to work with them, that may not really be a signal to abandon them.
Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA)
An NDA could be a mutual settlement between two parties to not share the information with third parties. An NDA without an expiration date is highly effective.
When you hire an assistant, have her or him sign a non-compete agreement. A non-compete agreement prevents a person or entity from beginning a business that will compete with or threaten yours.
If you hire an assistant to fine-tune your product, be sure to ascertain that any and all enhancements made to the concept are yours, although you have to acknowledge the individual who made enhancements as a co-inventor in your patent. Nevertheless, he/she has no rights to your invention.
How to Protect Your Business Idea with a Provisional Patent
Turn to the US Patent and Trademark Office for assistance. Luckily, patents aren't the only method to guard your concepts. You file a provisional patent yourself online or use a template corresponding to the Invent + Patent System or Patent Wizard. The USPTO lists facilities of which the employees are readily available to reply to questions and provide direction. Submitting a PPA costs a little over $100, whereas patents can cost hundreds of dollars, depending on the complexity of your concept.
Provisional patent software protects your concept for one 12-month period and allows you to label your concept as "patent pending.” You may then use this time to turn your imagination into a tangible concept. Additionally, think about getting a trademark, which you can simply do online. Having a registered trademark creates the impression that your product reflects the concept you are promoting.
Form relationships with your competition. Although this may sound counterintuitive, establishing mutually useful relationships with your biggest competitors is one of the most effective methods to guard your concept through mutual respect.
Three Ways to Protect Your Original Idea
Protected property falls into three fundamental classes: copyrights, trademarks, and patents. "Intellectual property" or "IP" consists of nearly any type of authentic creation — a novel, a trademark, a song, or a new concept for a movie. Copyrights cover tangible inventive, musical, and literary works, such as lyrics, books, pictures, and so forth. Trademarks apply to phrases, names, or symbols supposed to distinguish product creators by identifying their items or companies. Patents defend inventors' rights to their innovations, innovations that may range from machines to chemical compounds and even vegetation.
You probably have an authentic concept, such as an idea for a screenplay, that you realized successfully. Congratulations! Your work is copyrighted. Copyright is attached to an authentic work that is about to turn into a tangible product. What does that imply? A tangible form is something like recording dance steps on a recorder or placing music notes down on paper. As soon as a copyright is achieved, you alone have the only right to provide and reproduce your work.
Like copyrights, you aren't required to register your trademark. Use of the mark, however, gives you the right to your company or product. Registering your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Workplace has crucial advantages.
In line with statute, anyone who "invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent” from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Workplace. To guard your invention, you should apply for a patent — there is no such thing as an automated patent, as there is with copyrights. Provisional Patent Utility has a few advantages, as it is easier and faster to file, giving you a "patent pending" standing for 12 months.
Although it might take years until your patent is granted, your product is protected from the date you apply for a patent. With a patent, which lasts for 20 years, you could have "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" your invention within the U.S. or "importing" the invention into the nation. Some concepts could require a mixture of protections and copyrights, as patents alone might not safeguard your property worldwide. In case you register in America, international agreements can help ensure the safety of your business or product.
How to Really Protect Your Business Idea
The reality of defending what you are selling is that you may promote a concept even if you do not personalize it. A concept is like a summertime breeze — you can take pleasure in it, perhaps use it to energize your windmill or sailboat. You may personalize it, or you may steal it. A concept is sort of a good joke — using anyone else’s joke isn't stealing it. Sure, there are certain exceptions to this rule.
Important notice: Sharing a concept is giving it away.
You’ll see hundreds of individuals — probably hundreds of thousands — saying (or posting) that they have an excellent concept they need to promote. Also, you’ll discover nothing, not one instance, of an organization really shopping for a concept. Corporations purchase firms, merchandise, websites, software programs, startups with traction, and infrequently startups with simply a concept and a staff; however, they do not purchase concepts.
So, get this straight: what you want to do with that concept is to develop a business with it. Add worth, gather a staff, and get going. Find committed investors and monitor early gross sales and traction. Companies and people who cater to that dream are nearly all scammers. The one exception to that rule is a couple of professional companies that assist inventors in applying for market patents, which is outside of the scope of this article.
Don’t let the cat out of the bag.
Conceal your thoughts. Think about all these spy movies and reveal your concepts on a “must know” basis, considering who you share with and how. Bear in mind that individuals who take your concepts and execute them before you do didn’t steal your thought, they only executed on it.
Determine who must know certain particulars of your project and inform these folks rigorously and appropriately. If you can execute your concepts by yourself, try this. If you need a staff to construct it, employ that staff carefully. Really feel them out first for his or her curiosity before you share the entire concept.
Who Can You Trust?
Don’t get paranoid — do not collect a staff of individuals who cannot be trusted together with your concept. Official buyers can steal your thought; they want groups to execute the concept, not bare concepts (bear in mind, a concept has no worth, the work does, and typically a staff provides such work). Asking, “Can I trust you with this?” isn’t an iron-clad answer. On a positive note, many individuals give secrets and techniques away without even having dangerous intentions.
If you need help with protecting your idea, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.