Without doubt you've got your business idea and you think that it's the hottest thing since sliced bread and you're already envisioning yourself on the cover of Time and The Economist. And then the paranoia starts taking over, and you start thinking that you need to be hush hush about it, have your wife, or girlfriend sign a NDA, and install motion sensors and cameras outside your office.
Ok, maybe not that paranoid, but one of the major mistakes start-uppers make is keeping their idea to themselves or only telling a few close family members. Why do we say this? For the following reasons:
- Objective 3rd parties who are not emotionally attached to your project can give you a better view of it that you can yourself. Will it succeed or fail? Is it marketable? Does it satisfy a need? And pose problems that you may have missed.
- Most people already have jobs, those who don't most probably won't start their own companies (an entrepreneur is a funny animal), and most entrepreneurs already have their own projects to deal with.
- Sharing with others may well provide you with opportunities you didn't notice yourself, can augment your business model and even create additional revenue channels for your business.
- Network. If you need capital, if you need a mentor, if you need a partner - the only way you'll ever get this is through your network and talking about your product, getting people interested, and involved. And by sitting on you idea you're actually hurting yourself more than you know.
- Even if someone did want to steak your idea, they probably lack your knowledge, experience, and background in the industry associated with your idea give you an advantage.
- Finally, if someone does take your idea, as is and tried to market it behind your back there are a number of legal measures you can take. Notwithstanding, your business model may have, and probably has changed since you told that individual who stole your idea about it, so don't worry too much, in all likelihood they're less competitive than you.
But let's say you did reinvent the wheel, and your product actually is hotter than sliced bread. What now? Following these simple rules ought to keep your business yours and the lawyers happily notarizing papers instead of preparing for litigation. That said, here are three simple tips.
- When you present anything and everything regarding your company, be sure to keep all hard copies, don't leave your presentation with someone who asks for it, don't leave your exec summary. Take everything.
- Copyrights are cheap, and as opposed to patents that can often take years to go through the registration process, a copyright can usually be turned around within a week. Given it doesn't offer the sale level of protection as a patent, but better something than nothing, so copyright your business plans.
- If you're sending out documents to 3rd parties, always date them, and always send them in PDF format, and always add a watermark. While you may be - most people are still not that tech savvy, and converting a watermarked PDF to a .doc is the equivalent of programming an early 80's VCR (... difficult).
Have any additional tips for us regarding IP protection. Let us know!