How to Protect Your Idea and Build it Into a Viable Product

May 1, 2001 | By | Reply More

trademarks and copyrightsQUESTION ON Protecting Your Idea For Business

I am very interested in starting my own business. I have recently graduated and will be licensed in my field in October. I need to know where to start … I do not know if I need a patent attorney, lawyer, etc. for my idea that I do not want anyone to steal … it is a unique situation. I need help to find sources to protect my idea number one and two funding to promote and build my idea. I also live in Illinois and want to have to go to business really in California.

– Priscilla


Dear Priscilla,

These are typical problems that entrepreneurs face everyday. If you do not have a friend or family member that could advise you (and perhaps help you with financing) I would recommend that you start by drafting a business plan (or hiring a team to help you in this capacity).

When choosing a team you may want to look for someone who can coach you through the early stages of your company. Of course all of this will cost you money. So there you have the typical chicken and egg problem.

Many of the young companies that I advise begin by raising $50-100k from their friends and family. That seed round helps them to reach a few milestones (obviously the milestones vary by company): the creation of a business plan, a presentation for potential investors, a prototype, development of the management team and beginning to secure VC funding.

As far as confidentiality, this is always going to be a concern. My advice is to have anyone you discuss the idea with sign an non-disclosure agreement (NDA) at this early stage.

Filing a patent will cost a lot of money so you want to make sure that a patent will truly protect your idea before you go down that path. Are you planning to move to California? Unfortunately I do not know enough about what you are doing to advise you on the issue of living in Illinois and planning a business in California. I will say that laws vary from state to state so you may want to contact a California attorney to answer your legal questions.

For more information, read the following articles:

Recommended Resources on How To Protect Your Idea

Article originally published in May 2001. Updated March 1, 2012
About the Author:  

Lisa Segal is a New York State licensed Certified Public Accountant. Prior to founding Convergence Consulting Group, she was the CFO of Retail Promotions, LLC, a developer of patent-pending technology in the retail space. Ms. Segal was a senior consultant at KPMG Peat Marwick, where she developed and implemented financial strategies, global restructurings, initial public offerings, and spin-offs for many Fortune 500 clients, including Pfizer, Pepsi, Fuji and Carl Icahn/ Ms. Segal earned a Bachelor of Science with honors from the Zarb School of Business at Hofstra University and a Masters in Taxation at C.W. Post.
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