Do You Know Know How to Protect Your Idea?

As your business seeks investors, new clients, or even new employees, a business owner must repeatedly reveal details about the company to others. Idea theft is an ongoing concern for entrepreneurs. A competitor could snatch the idea. An investor could take it and fund it. While this behavior happens less than you would think, it is worth taking some basic steps to protect yourself.

“If you never discuss your business with others, you’re missing out on endless opportunities.” 

There are a few steps businesses can take to help prevent theft:

  • Avoid Revealing Too Much: One of the best ways to secure your idea is to only reveal what is absolutely necessary. If you’re pitching an idea to a potential client, give only the details necessary to convey the idea. It’s not necessary to share every detail of how your product works, for instance, when you can get the same information across by revealing the need your product or service fulfills. One exception to this may be when you’re pitching to investors or lenders, who will likely want to know everything about your product before taking a financial risk on it.
  • Use Non-Disclosure Agreements: A non-disclosure agreement can help protect your idea before revealing it to workers or other associates. However, it’s important to note that many investors will balk at signing an NDA before you speak with them. Since the balance of power is in their favor, this may be something you’ll have to give up if you want investors. The same holds true for potential clients.
  • Apply for a Provisional Patent. A patent can incur far more expense than a startup is able to pay. During the process of shopping your idea around, a provisional patent can protect your idea for the first year. After twelve months, the provisional patent expires, however, with no option of being extended.
  • Trademark Your Name. trademark can provide an additional layer of protection, since a company’s name is often tied closely with its idea. In addition, by establishing a trademark, you also have added protection in the event a legal issue should arise. The documentation required to register a trademark can serve as written proof that your business idea was in the works at a specified time. These dates will be crucial in establishing the exact date your idea was in the works in the event someone else tries to dispute this fact.
  • Research the Recipients. Do your part in researching the recipient of information prior to your appointment. Information is so easily available now, a business owner can determine someone’s reputation before deciding to do business with that person.
  • Follow Your Instincts. Coupled with the research you can conduct are your own natural instincts. If someone has taken a particular interest in hearing every possible facet of your creation, ask yourself what that person’s motive could be.
  • Document Your interactions. Put as much in writing as possible and save that documentation. By creating a paper trail, you’ll have proof of your concept if it does go to court. Keep a log of every discussion you have where details of your business are disclosed. This log could come in handy if you find one of those conversations go somewhere.

If you’re truly concerned about your idea being stolen, by taking a couple of the above-mentioned steps, you can give yourself a little peace of mind. Chances are,