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How to Protect Your Business Idea

By: Buffie Edick



Your ideas can be as valuable to you as your physical property and protecting them should be something every business owner, inventor, or entrepreneur takes into consideration. Having a great idea and keeping it to yourself won’t get you very far in the business world, so eventually you will need to tell someone about your greatest new invention, groundbreaking marketing idea, or service that beats out all competitors’ offerings.

Before you pitch your idea, there are some things to keep in mind about protecting your creativity.  First, consider seeking out protection under one of the following Intellectual Property Rights:
Copyright. Your original works of authorship begin to fall under copyright protection as soon as they are created and put into tangible recorded form. Copyrights can cover both published and unpublished works including poetry, plays, computer software, lyrics, databases, films, musicals, and literary works. Copyrights do not need to be registered in general as they are formed upon the creation of the authorship, however, registration will be required if legal actions are brought against another for copyright infringements.
Patent. Patents protect discoveries, inventions, or processes that possess new qualities or technical aspects. You have to use caution when applying for a patent as there are filing and maintenance fees over the lifespan of the patent. Just filing for one can cost anywhere from a hundred dollars up into the thousands.
Trademark. Trademarks protect your symbols, designs, phrases, or words that distinguish your goods or services from your competitor’s. You do not need to register your trademark; however, by registering and therefore owning a trademark on the Principal Register you have the ability to bring suit in a federal court concerning the mark, having legal ownership and exclusive rights to use the mark nationwide, and the ability to record your trademark with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service.
Non-Disclosure Agreement. If you have an idea you are passionate about and feel the need to discuss it with others, then having the parties sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement will afford you with the protection you need to take your idea to the next level. Friends and associates might bristle at the insinuation of “non-trust,” however if the idea is fresh and unique, they will see the value in protecting your idea right out of the gate.
Mark of Confidentiality. Stamping the word “Confidential” on all hard copies of designs and ideas you share with peers or business partners should prevent anyone from making copies of your work.
Having a great idea and running it by family or friends is a great way to begin the move from dreamer to inventor. The fact that you are willing to take your idea to the next step is a sign that you have the drive and ambition necessary to open that new business, roll out an exciting product, or offer a service that will put you above the rest.
Go on—keep brainstorming new and exciting ways to improve your world. Most associates in the business circle will not want to go through the hassle caused by attempting to steal your idea. Relax a bit and pitch that idea to a few of your peers. Once your idea begins to take on a concrete form you should consider protecting it.
Published: June 18, 2013

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