How to Protect Your Business Ideas

March 11, 2013 | By | 1 Reply More

If your business is built on a truly original idea, one of the first steps you need to take is to get a legal protection of that idea.

You need to consider the protection of your intellectual property early in the formation of the business. It is heartbreaking to find that the idea you’ve worked so hard to conceptualize and develop is stolen by other people and companies. You end up losing your product, and most importantly, your profits as well! Plus, failure to protect your proprietary information could lead to complex and expensive legal actions later on.

Profit, loss and risk crossword

The best course of action is to visit your country’s patent and trademark office. In the U.S., patent grant provides “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention in the United States or “importing” the invention into the United States.

Before you can patent an idea or a product, it must meet various tests. First, only the concrete embodiment of an invention or an idea is patentable. You must build a working model and test it in the environment in which it is supposed to work. Second, you must be the first to conceive the idea, and it must be different from what already exists. The idea must not have been described in a printed publication elsewhere.

The process of patenting your invention takes time and money. At present, the average patent application takes about 24.6 months. The patent usually lasts for 20 years for utility and plant patents; and 14 years for design patents.

The costs can range between $1,000 and $100,000, depending on the complexity of your idea. While expensive, you will find that aggressively pursuing patents is an integral long-term strategy that pays off.

Find a qualified, experienced patent attorney to help you apply for a patent.

Patent applications, are best handled through attorneys who specialize in the protection of intellectual property. Subtle variations in the wording of an application may greatly increase or diminish the protection afforded by your patent. If you are uncertain about incurring this expense, you might consider at least spending an hour or two with an experienced patent attorney to discuss the pros and cons of proceeding with your application, and if your idea is indeed worth protecting.

Keep extensive records tracking the development of your idea.

You could use a log book or a bound book where you can put all kinds of documentation to show how the idea evolved ­ from each design sketch to every minor change, dating every single step to create a complete picture of the product’s development. This record is critical to prove the evolution of your idea.

Conduct an extensive research to find out if there are similar patents.

Called a “patentability search,” you will be looking for published articles and issued patents that may be similar to your product idea. The key is to make sure that your product idea is novel and that your invention does not violate the patent rights of anyone else. Document the search in your log book. You can seek the help of a patent attorney or patentability search companies in your research, subject to your budget.

Document where, how and to whom you showed your idea.

You will invariably talk about your idea and product to someone else, whether with possible financiers, manufacturers, and partners or to participants in your market research activities.

In fact, patent lawyers would even advise you not to discuss your idea with anyone before you begin the process of applying for patents. In countries like Australia, it will be harder to obtain a patent for your product if you publicly discuss, publish, demonstrate or sell your product before you file a patent application. Be sure to check the rules governing the patent application process in your country.

If you must do so, ask him or her to sign a non-disclosure agreement before you discuss or show your idea.

Also ask the person to initial and date the page of your sketches in your logbook. These tools can give you ammunition in the event that the other party copies or steals your idea. Document every phone conversations, patent applications, and brainstorming sessions.

Watch out, though, for some companies that may require you to sign a waiver requiring you to give up your rights when you present any confidential information to them.

Do your own market research.

Why waste tons of money on getting a patent if your product is not marketable in the first place? You need to verify whether your product idea is marketable and can really give you the millions that you’ve hoped for.

Remember, every time you present your idea to somebody else, you run the risk of your idea being stolen and copied by somebody else. Litigation costs are not cheap; so make sure they agree in writing not to discuss your idea with anyone else.

Explore the possibility of developing the product yourself, or licensing someone else to make the product for you.

Consult a licensing expert on how you can reap the rewards of a commercially viable idea without exposing yourself to the hazards involved in manufacturing and marketing the product yourself.

Not all patented products and idea can bring in the millions. But having an armor to protect your property can give you the confidence to pursue the full commercial potentials of your product.

Recommended Books on How to Protect Your Business Ideas:


Steve Ma. Reyna writes for He is also in-charge of advertising for

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Category: Intellectual Property

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Steve Ma. Reyna writes for He is also in-charge of advertising for

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  1. MicroSourcing says:

    It also helps to keep a product or idea under wraps until its official launch. Tech companies like Apple and Samsung guard their newest products with utmost secrecy, making sure no amount of info gets leaked until they release them to the public. This keeps competitors from copying their ideas.

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