Developing, refining, and implementing a business idea can take a lot of time and effort. You usually have to talk to others as you flesh out your idea to determine if it’s viable and to do some form of market research. This typically requires you to talk to potential customers, suppliers, investors, and others about your idea. This could create a problem – especially if one of the people you talked to tries to steal your idea so they can benefit from it without you being involved. If you have a business idea that you want to protect while you put all the pieces together to implement it, here are some things you can do.
Keep Tight Lips
There’s an old adage that goes something like this: “Loose lips sink ships”. What that means is giving out too much information on your idea can undermine it. It’s important that you only give out as much information is necessary to inform and entice potential customers and investors to become involved with your project, but not give them enough information where they learn how to duplicate what you are doing. You always need to be mindful that you control the informational flow about your idea and what you say matters.
Sometimes, a fight between two businesses over who owns an idea comes down to paperwork. You want to save all the materials that you used to create the idea. This includes any hand-written notes, emails, letters, and word processing documents on your computer. Everything should be dated to show the timeline of when the idea came to fruition and all the subsequent work that was done to develop the idea. One thing you can do to place the documentation into an envelope and mail it to your home or office. Do not open the envelope at all except in a court of law. The postage date on the envelope will help prove when you thought of the idea.
Get Professional Assistance
There are a lot of rules and regulations that have to be followed when fully developing an idea and it's important to find a professional adviser who has the know-how to get everything done right and who you can trust. An adviser will also help show you what steps you need to take to protect your idea and keep it safe until it's time to present it to the marketplace.
If the idea is an invention of some sort, you should get a provisional patent to protect you and your idea. A provisional patent verifies that you are the owner of the idea and no one else can use it without your permission. Having the patent allows you to be more open when discussing your idea. One thing to note, you cannot copyright an idea. So, if your idea cannot get a provisional patent, you’ll still want to guard how much information you give to others.
Use Non-Disclosure Agreements
There will likely be times when you need to release a lot of information to entice someone to invest in your idea or so you can take pre-orders. The business associates you are dealing with may require an extensive understanding of your idea and what you plan to do. If you are compelled to talk in detail, you may want to have the participants learning about your idea to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The agreement not only limits the ability of others to talk about your idea, but it also serves to document when a participant learned of it in case you have to go to court.