So, you have a business idea but you don’t know how to start developing it in a safe and secure way? Here is what you can do to protect your business invention.
FEDERAL OR STATE REGISTRATION
The first and most important thing you need to do when it comes to the protection of your business idea is to officially register it with the appropriate state or federal office. The registration consists of three important categories: copyrights, patents, and trademarks. These three categories provide three different kinds of protection to your business idea for a different time period.
Copyright consists of a collection of rights that you, as a creator of the idea, are granted with. This collection of rights answers some of the most important questions about how to legally protect your business idea. Copyrights include:
- The right to reproduce the work
- The right to prepare derivative works
- The right to distribute copies of said work
- The right to publicly perform the work
- The right to publicly display the work
As the owner of the business idea you own the copyright and with it the right to license, assign, or transfer the said copyright to other people. You also get to choose how the public views your work.
Then, there is a patent, a property right that you get from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). With the title of the patent you get to exclude others from making, selling or using your business idea in any way possible. There are three types of patents: design, utility, and plant.
While utility patents protect how your business idea functions, design patents are there to protect the look of your business invention. Lastly, a plant patent will protect discovered or invented reproduced plants. Utility and plant patents usually last for about 20 years and the design patents last for 15 years.
To make sure you are protecting your business idea through patents the best way possible, make sure to consult a reliable patent lawyer who will help and guide you through this process. The lawyer you hire will also make sure you are using the correct patent for your business idea.
A trademark can be a symbol, a word, a phrase or even a design that your business idea gets identified by. This is what sets your business apart and makes it recognisable by the customers.
For example, a trademark can be a slogan or a brand logo too. When you are gathering the rights to a certain trademark you are not required to register. You can decide to register your trademark with the USPTO, but registering it doesn’t give you any extra protection.
In case you plan to work with other people on your business idea, a non-disclosure agreement is a great option for effective protective measure. NDA basically works as a form of agreement between the parties involved in the process. The people working on a business idea with you sign an agreement stating they will not share or disclose your business ideas to any other third parties. You should also consult an experienced lawyer to help you come up with a draft for your NDA that has no expiration date. That way, your protection is even stronger.
NON-COMPETE AND NON-SOLICITATION AGREEMENTS
Similarly to an NDA, you can also use a non-compete agreement. However, this one works to prevent others from starting a similar business to yours. You can combine a non-solicitation and non-compete agreement. That way, you will prevent others from potentially stealing your clients and employees.
The difference is that the non-compete agreements need to be limited in scope, time, and location. For instance, let’s say your company sells tires in a small town. It would be way too complicated to create an agreement that would ban others from your country from selling ties for the rest of their lives. What you can do instead is to make an agreement that can prevent others from starting a competing tire business for the next five years in the approximately 30-mile radius of your business location.
Work-for-hire agreements are great for those situations when you want some extra help in the process of your business invention but you don’t want to give up your rights. This agreement lets you hire someone who will thoroughly examine your business idea and try to improve it. These people are there to help you reach perfection when it comes to your patent. You just need to file a patent and the person you hire will become a co-inventor, but the rights are still completely yours.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices can provide you with a provisional patent that will help you protect your business invention. In the time period of about 12 months before you file a formal application, this patent will be protecting your business invention. On top of that, provisional patents allow you to pitch the business idea, then test its commerciality and lastly, fine-tune any issues you run across before finally releasing your business patent. This is usually referred to as a “patent pending” label.
USE SECURE COMMUNICATION
When you’re discussing your business ideas, be extra careful and use secure connections. Hackers find it extremely easy to gain access to business ideas through insecure communication channels. So, when you’re texting someone, make sure to use secure messaging applications. Also, don’t forget to encrypt your communications for extra protection.
COMMUNICATE YOUR IDEA AFTER ITS PROTECTED
Lastly, educating others about your business ideas may even be one of the strongest protection measures. This may sound contradicting. What we mean by this is that once your idea is secure and protected, marketing and educating about your patent is your first step of displaying your idea to the public and ensuring that people know about your idea and that it’s already taken by someone.
In conclusion, there are tons of effective ways in which you can protect your business idea. Apart from using copyrights, patents, and agreements, talking about your business idea in a smart and secure way can also help you a lot.