Whether you have an idea for a killer app or a vision of a better mousetrap, getting your idea for a new business from concept to actual income can take time and effort. Along the way it is natural to be concerned if your idea could be stolen or someone you tell it to could get the jump on you and invalidate all your hard work. But it is hard to develop any kind of viable business alone.
Sooner or later you will need to bring in a mentor, talk to an advisor, or even pitch to an investor to make the step from concept to viable product. So what can you do to protect your business idea while it is till hatching?
Here are some three documents you should discuss with your patent attorney or business lawyer before moving from that sketch in your head to making plans for actual production:
Working With Outside Partners and NDAs.
Anytime you decide to bring in someone who does not have a stake in your business idea you should have them sign a binding Non Disclosure Agreement or NDA before you tell them or show them a thing. This includes anyone who comes to work with you such as a programmer or designer. The document is an agreement between the two of you to keep confident everything about the business. It can designate that the signers cannot share information with a specific third party or it can be a one-way agreement for your outside partner or employee.
Non-compete Agreements Before and After Hiring.
Although this is more common after someone leaves your employ, you can also ask every employee to sign a Non-compete Agreement when they are hired. This document will stop them from going out and starting up a similar business to yours that will be in competition to your business. Generally speaking, it is to prevent them from taking all your ideas they have seen in their employ and simply using them to compete against you in the marketplace.
Casual Work for Hire Agreements.
Anytime that you hire someone in a creative capacity, whether it is to create a website or to perhaps fine tune the product you are developing, you need to be sure to protect your investment in that idea. The way to do this is to have them sign a Work for Hire contract that stipulates they have no contractual right to ownership of the product. They did it while working for you. If you go on to patent the product you will still need to name them in the patent application as a co-inventor but the Work for Hire agreement means they do not share in the rights to whatever they worked on for you.
Protect Your Rights.
These are not the only tools you can use to protect your rights as the creator of your business idea. Be sure to talk to the folks at the patent office when pursuing this idea to find out what else you can do that might be helpful. There are all kinds of myths about patent applications floating around the web, so be sure and check with your lawyer for the fine details before acting on something you simply see on the net.