by Jordan Erskine, President of Dynamic Blending
Billionaire Eli Broad once said, “Ideas… more than money… are the real currency for success.”
Without a smart idea, a great business can’t grow. That is why protecting intellectual property is so vital to the success of any company. From the brand name to product formulations, every type of business has ideas and intangible assets they need to keep safe.
It may be easier said than done, though. Competition for market share now spans the entire globe. The internet has made information readily available to billions of people, but it has also made it easier than ever for business ideas to be stolen. It has never been more important to pay attention to the rules and regulations surrounding intellectual property.
Protecting ideas begins with smart decisions before launch. Let’s explore three actions to lock up ideas and set businesses up for success.
1. Due Diligence.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement of a new idea–the perfect name for a clothing boutique, a fresh new ingredient for beauty products, or brand new invention. The trouble is, after thousands of years of business ideas have surfaced, there’s at least a chance that someone else has already thought of the same thing.
That’s why it is so essential to perform a thorough search for any existing copyrights, patents, trademarks, URLs, or other potential conflicts before going to market. If another product or service already has elements of the idea an aspiring business wants to use, it can lead to complex legal problems.
It’s always better to deal with overlapping intellectual property upfront to avoid the costs and time lost in a court battle. Just as damaging, fledgling companies can find themselves forced into rebranding. Changing the name of a commodity–and all of the baggage that comes with that–can kill a new idea as customers find themselves lost in new jargon, a new website, new social media handles, etc.
Doing the hard discovery work helps companies move forward without fear that their ideas are already taken. The research process also helps form ideas that are fully vetted, strong and ready for market.
2. Lawyer Up.
One of the best ways to protect ideas is to file official paperwork. Working with a legal team can get expensive, and many entrepreneurs find themselves wondering if pouring some of their limited capital into lawyer fees is really worth it.
The answer is almost always yes. Legal documentation is the only way to prove the originality and timing of an idea. A copyright or trademark will greatly shorten any legal battle over a business’s name or logo. Patents guarantee the exclusive rights to produce a given product or use a specific type of process that hasn’t been done before.
Patents and copyrights don’t have to be filed by a professional attorney, but it is incredibly complex to do so. A lawyer can help navigate the ins and outs of intellectual property law with much less stress and frustration. That kind of peace of mind is priceless.
3. Choose the right partners.
Sometimes the biggest threats to ideas don’t come from the competition, they come within an organization. As many as 80% of all business partnerships fail, which is a sobering statistic.
Of course there are ways to ensure that disgruntled team members don’t take valuable ideas with them if they leave. Non-disclosure agreements and binding contracts are something to discuss with an attorney before going into business with anyone.
That said, strong relationships are more important than all of the legal documents in the world. One common talent that most successful entrepreneurs have in common is the ability to surround themselves with smart, trust-worthy people. Cultivating a culture of openness and showing people they are valued makes a huge difference in how valuable ideas are treated.
In a company where everyone feels invested in success, everyone is more likely to work toward–instead of against–those common goals.
Without protections in place, no business can expect their ideas to remain the valuable asset they started as. Using the legal process and having a long-term plan in place for keeping your intellectual property safe means your business will be more attractive to investors, more likely to be successful over the long term and more ready for growth.
Businesses are only as good as the ideas they begin and evolve with, so they need to be treated with as much care as the cash in the bank.
President of Dynamic BlendingJordan Erskine is a highly motivated entrepreneurial individual who has co-founded many successful businesses. Jordan has over 17 years in the personal care/skincare industry. Jordan currently serves as President for the award-winning contract manufacturer Dynamic Blending.