by Lewis Robinson
With the constantly increasing ease in which information can be shared, it’s becoming harder for business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs to secure their business ideas to ensure competitors or other people do not unfairly steal them.
But even with this ongoing problem, businesses owners and aspiring entrepreneurs should not just keep their ideas to themselves, just so they can protect them from those who will pilfer them. With different steps, it is entirely possible to bring out your ideas and prevent your competitors or other people from stealing them from you.
1. Share information with moderation.
One of the best approaches to secure your idea is to be careful about how you share your business’ information. For instance, if you are pitching an idea to a potential client or investor, share with them only the basic information. Why go deep into how your budding brainchild operates when you can simply achieve this by explaining to the client or investor what it does?
Also, if you are using virtual bookkeeping services, you need to be extra cautious about the kind of information you are communicating to the bookkeeping assistant or else your trade secrets may end up being pilfered by the assistant.
2. Use these three legal tools.
Non-Disclosure Agreements – A non-disclosure agreement helps to protect your idea by committing all the parties you are working with to confidentiality.
Non-compete agreement – If you’re pitching an idea to a potential client or investor, have them sign a non-compete agreement. This type of agreement bars the other party(s) from entering or starting a profession or trade that would compete or pose a threat to yours within an established radius.
Work-for-hire agreement – If you plan on hiring someone temporarily, a work-for-hire agreement helps to establish that you own any and all improvements made to an idea.
3. Seek the help of U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
If your idea potentially qualifies for a patent, it may be worth your while to file a provisional patent application. The provisional patent will protect your idea from rip-offs for up to a year as you shop your idea around. Call USPTO Center if you have any questions or need guidance with filing a PPA.
A trademark also provides an additional layer of protection to your idea. Even though a trademark does not really protect your idea, the documentation needed to register a trademark does serve as written proof that your business idea was in the works at a set point-in-time. The documentation may be important in establishing dates should a legal issue about the timing of your idea arise.
4. Research the Recipients.
Before you begin working with a contractor, potential investor or a possible client, do your own due diligence about the investor. Try to answer these questions: What kind of reputation does the investor have in the finance industry? Have they supported any competing businesses in the past? Do they have any disputes with previous business partners?
In simple terms, you should be comfortable with the investor before sharing important details about your business idea.
5. Record your idea in detail.
Ensure that you have detailed descriptions, drawings, plans and general records that can act as proof that you have been working on your idea. Document every meeting where you have shared details about your idea.
The advantages of sharing your idea with investors or clients outweigh the small risk of theft. Therefore, use the documentation as a security blanket for sharing your ideas with confidence.
The Bottom Line.
The best way to protect yourself is by being mindful about whom you share your idea with. It’s worth researching extensively before disclosing your concept to anyone. Additionally, it is worth mentioning that being too protective of your idea could make you miss out on important input from business owners, colleagues and others who could help you improve and grow your idea.
Lewis Robinson is a business consultant specializing in social media marketing, CRM, and sales. He’s begun multiple corporations and currently freelances as a writer and business consultant.