The first thing you should do is to consider to copyright your business ideas.
Now you have an action plan and your business idea is validated,
it’s time to start getting serious and trying to raise money to get
your project off the ground.
This is the scary part because it means that you’re going to have
to show your idea to people and open it up to discussion. Not only
does this risk being shot down, but it also means the risk that
people might run off with your bright idea.
How to Protect Your Intellectual Property
The first thing you might consider doing is to protect your idea
legally. Is this the right avenue for your project though? And even
if it is, what type of protection should you be investing in?
If you were to come up with a story or a song, then this would be
automatically protected by copyright. Copyright comes into effect
automatically and all that remains for you to do is prove that you
had the idea first. However, it also only applies to creative works,
rather than mechanical inventions – or in your case an app.
If you have come up with a novel idea for a website or online
service, then copyright does not apply because it is not creative.
That said, what will be copyright is the actual code. If you
outsource this process, then make sure that your agreement
gives you the rights to all code! As long as you have those rights,
no one can copy or reproduce snippets of your code – or written
copy for that matter – on your sites. Likewise, all images will be
Trademarks, meanwhile, apply to business names and brands
and cost a couple of hundred dollars for several years. A
trademark can be used to protect your business name, so this is a
good time to start thinking about what you want to call your
project and what you want to call your business (which may or
may not have the same name). This will help when you look for funding too. Do your research by looking at existing patents and
make sure your name is original.
But things are different for inventions. Here, you need a patent
and this will protect you for ten years and only in the country that
you registered it. What’s more, a patent is far more complex,
probably needs the help of a lawyer to define and can’t be
renewed after it runs out. There are also two types of patent:
utility patents for the way things work and design patents for the
actual physical shape of those things. If you have an app or a
piece of software, then this can be protected with a utility patent in
which case the protection is for the way the idea operates and the
solution the idea offers.
Protecting Your Idea
If your idea isn’t new though, or if it doesn’t have a unique
function, then you can’t protect it. Uber is an idea that could
potentially be protected by a utility patent for instance but a ‘fun
platform game starring a squirrel’ could not be.
Patents are also very expensive and this, along with their
temporary and single-country nature, means that many people
won’t be able to use them.
This limitation might seem like a bad thing, but it’s actually very
important. This prevents people from jealously protecting ideas
that could benefit all of mankind and charging an obscene amount
for them. If patents never expired, painkillers would be a whole lot more expensive and there’d only be one place to get
Paracetamol! Nevertheless, it still gives inventors the opportunity
to earn money from their creations.
So now, the question is whether or not you need a patent.
The answer depends but in most cases, it is probably a no.
If you’re dealing with a potential investor and you want to keep
your idea safe, then you can get them to sign an NDA or ‘Non-
Disclosure Agreement’ before they speak with you.
But more to the point, it’s important to recognize that for the most
part, people aren’t out to steal your ideas. Most people with the
means to make something from your idea will already have ideas
of their own to implement. A huge investor is not so blown away
by your idea for an app that they’re going to risk legal
ramifications by stealing it and twiddling their moustache!
In terms of facing competition from other manufacturers, it’s
important to recognize that the best way to capitalize on a new
idea is simply to do it first and do it best. The execution is more
important than the idea in most cases and jealously protecting
your idea can actually get you laughed out of a meeting.
With all due respect… get over yourself!
One of the biggest
mistakes new entrepreneurs make is guarding their idea and not talking about it while working away on it secretively for years. If
you’re serious, then get out there and talk about it. The best way
to protect your idea is to do it first and do it best. If it’s a success,
then it’s going to get copied regardless of what you do!