In this digital age in which we live, it is vitally important to keep your ideas safe. Even if you are creating a hard good, chances are good that you have sensitive information about it displayed on a publicly accessible website.
If you aren’t careful, someone short on inspiration but long on hustle might snatch your concept from you and make it happen before you can.
Worse yet, a patent troll could claim your idea and use their successful application to sue you for every dime you have.
Allen Hartman has seen the dreams of many would-be tech entrepreneurs dashed because they were clueless when it came to protecting their intellectual property.
If you do not wish this fate to befall you, take the preventative steps outlined below.
1) Take time to learn about patents, trademarks, copyrights, etc
If you are to take appropriate measures to protect your ideas from unscrupulous people, you first need to understand the language surrounding intellectual property.
By knowing the difference between a patent, a trademark, and a copyright, you will know exactly what you need to do next.
For example, a patent grants to a person or corporation the exclusive right to market a process/product, while a trademark attributes the use of a specific name or design to a designated company.
2) Figure out what information needs to be patented, trademarked, or copyrighted
Once you know the definition of the above terms, you can then go through everything in your company and figure out what you need to protect from those who would seek to easily profit from all your hard work.
Any design or slogan you wish to claim should be trademarked, creative property needs to have a copyright applied to it, and in order to claim ownership of a specific invention (this includes concepts explained in the form of information), you’ll need to file for a patent.
3) Hire an attorney that specializes in intellectual property
As important as it is to understand the basics of copyrights, trademarks, and patents, there is still a lot of legalese surrounding these processes.
To ensure that you don’t inadvertently create a loophole a bad actor could exploit, it is strongly advised you hire the services of an attorney who knows intellectual property inside and out.
They will make sure all the information you supply covers all bases.
4) Make sure your non-disclosure agreements are well-written
At some point in the life of your company, you will likely need to bring a partner, employees, or contractors on board.
When you bring new humans into your business, its trade secrets will be exposed to them. Combat downside risks by making them sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) that binds them to keeping their mouth shut, lest they be sued.
5) File any patents as soon as you can
No matter how hard you try, it will be difficult to keep potentially traitorous eyes off your proposal. The longer you wait to file your patent, the greater the chance some opportunist will take advantage of your lack of a trigger finger.
In the USA, you can modify a patent application up to 12 months after its submission, so embrace the ‘ready, fire, aim’ philosophy and get your patent application in. Afterward, you can correct any errors or add to its appeal at your leisure.