When Leibniz, one of Europe’s eminent philosophers went public about his new theory of calculus, he did not expect to become Sir Isaac Newton’s perennial arch-enemy. The enigmatic Newton, with the aid of his old notes, asserted that he was the inventor of calculus, having generated the concept twenty years earlier than Leibniz! If it were not for Leibniz, was Newton going to die with calculus secrets? You could be, for fear of idea theft, keeping business ideas to yourself just like Newton. However, the mystery about your secret ideas is that they will enrich the graveyard if you die without sharing them for money! Ideas need to be shared but before doing so, protect them using the following means so that you can benefit financially.
Document Your Business Concept
A record provides proof of when you conceived of your business idea. The best way to protect your idea is to create a paper trail that provides evidence of when you first thought of the business concept. Make use of existing technology as you develop your idea. Write down the idea, make interim sketches of the design, and record all meetings and discussions you conduct with people regarding your invention. Using technology enables you to save all recordings and documentation on cloud and this will simplify court arguments where there is need for you to contend against theft of your intellectual property.
Sign Non-Disclosure Agreements or Confidentiality Statements
If the nature of your business idea demands that you consult experts, investors or associates, consider signing a non-disclosure agreement with such. In this arrangement, you and the concerned stakeholder consent that sensitive information obtained during your interaction will not be leaked to any other person. These confidentiality statements provide the solid means of safeguarding your idea against theft from associates, consultants, or venture capitalists. Care needs to be taken to avoid scaring away prospective investors and customers who may detest the thought of signing non-disclosure agreements.
Patent Your Invention
The safest way to protect an invention is to apply for a patent from the government. A patent is a right of ownership, for a fixed period of time, on an invention, conferred upon the inventor to stop others from making, using, importing, or selling the invention without their permission within a stipulated geographical territory. This enables you to take legal action against anyone who attempts to steal your invention. Patentable inventions must be new-rather than modifications, not obvious to present experts in the field, and must be capable of industrial use. With a patent, you can make money from your product without fear of idea theft.
Register Your Design
Designs and patterns of products are registered instead of being patented. It could be that for an existing functional product, you have managed to come up with an original decoration or outward appearance. For such, you have a right to forbidothers from copying that external design within a given time frame and geographical jurisdiction. Any external attribute of a product such as physical shape, look, configuration, and decoration can be registered for the purposes of acquiring product design rights. The usual sign of protection that accompanies registered designs is ®. This sign sets you to benefit from your design as an entrepreneur.
Copyright Protection for Creative Works
For those of you whose enterprise involves creative works of art like movies, songs, paintings, literary pieces, photography, web content, software development, drawings, drama, and broadcasts, the appropriate protection is in copyrights. Copyrights are automatic and do not necessarily require any formalities. As such, you may or may not use the symbol © and get the same degree of protection. However, the right naturally accrues only to you for original ideas that you would have physically expressed rather than kept to yourself! There is no protection for mere intention to produce a certain piece of creative work!
Safeguard Your Trademarks and Service Marks
Ownership of a brand, unique phrase or symbol is protected by means of trademarks. A trademark is a distinguishable ensign, emblem, slogan, word, or logo that expresses a definite product or service and legitimately separates it from similar products or services in the same category. The trademark entirely pinpoints your product as belonging specifically to you or your enterprise. It notes your proprietary rights on the brand. Since a trademark is intellectual property, you may or may not register it. Nevertheless, the law permits you to use the relevant ® or ™ symbols on your product idea or brand.
Protecting your invention, design, business concept or name can be achieved by: documenting the business idea; signing non-disclosure agreements, patenting the invention; registering designs; copywriting one’s creative works; and using trade-marks. These means of protection have a lot of benefits and provide mileage to the entrepreneur in the event of idea theft.
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