Idea theft is an ongoing concern for many of these business owners, who see themselves as having an advantage by being at the forefront of the market. A competitor could snatch the idea and put it to use themselves, leaving the business with little recourse.
Interestingly, however, the top response to this concern is that most people have no interest in taking someone else’s idea and turning it into a multimillion-dollar business. This is especially true of investors, whose reputations could be severely damaged by such behavior. Those who want to start their own businesses generally have ideas in spades and are seeking funding to get those ideas off the ground, just as you are.
Still, while the vast majority of people aren’t out to steal your idea, it is a possibility. There are a few steps businesses can take to help prevent theft as they begin to share their ideas with others.
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. Instead of requiring a signature, consider simply printing a confidentiality statement on your business plan.
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
A trademark can provide an additional layer of protection, since a company’s name is often tied closely with its idea. Also, 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
Whether you’re revealing an idea to a potential investor, a possible client, or a contractor, do your part in researching that person or company 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. Look for any disputes with previous business partners and make sure the person has established a positive reputation in his or her chosen field.