So this post took quite some time. It’s one of the most lesser addressed yet most ‘consequential’ subjects in entrepreneurship that we seem to easily ignore.
And no, you don’t need to apply for a costly PATENT to protect your business ideas.
>> The Premise <<
It’s natural to fear that your idea might be stolen. But you can’t turn your vision into reality without the help of others. Sooner or later, you’re going to want to ask an industry expert to evaluate your product or service.
You’re going to need to collaborate with a manufacturer or distributor. But patents cost thousands of dollars and take years to be issued. You can’t afford to wait that long to start bringing your product to market.
Thankfully, there are creative ways to actively protect your idea without applying for a patent. Here are four affordable ACE strategies that will protect your business idea from being stolen:
1. Do your research: Before you begin working with anyone new, be it an individual or organisation, do some research online. Do they have a good track record? Can you find any complaints about their business practices? Try to get a sense of what they’re all about.
2. Non-disclosure agreement (NDA): Have anyone you work with sign a non-disclosure agreement that commits them to confidentiality. An NDA can be a mutual agreement between two parties not to share information with third parties, or it can go one-way (since you’re sharing information about your idea with them). If the agreement doesn’t have an expiration date, that’s powerful.
3. Non-compete agreement: If you hire someone to help you, have him or her sign a non-compete agreement. A non-compete agreement prevents an individual or entity from starting a business that would compete or threaten yours within an established radius.
4. Work-for-hire agreement: If you hire someone to help fine-tune your product, make sure to establish that you own any and all improvements made to the idea. Anything they come up with, you own. You will still need to list the person who came up with improvements as a co-inventor in your patent, but they will have no rights to your invention.
Bonus tip >>> “Build relationships with your competitors”. This may sound counter intuitive, but establishing mutually beneficial relationships with your greatest competitors is one of the best ways to protect your idea. This will mean they will have little motivation to rip you off because they are already profiting from the success of your business. By giving them business, you won’t be seen as a threat (even though, in reality, you may share the same market space).
Hope these tips helped you get a sense of how to protect your product or service from being burglarised. And trust me, getting stolen from is not always as glamorous as Hollywood blockbusters like ‘Oceans Eleven’ would have you believe! 🙂
Let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Part of my expertise include writing copy and content for Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete Agreements for clients. It’s now ‘what’ you say, but ‘how’ you say it that matters!
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