How Entrepreneurs Can Protect Their Ideas

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq.

Nina L. Kaufman, Esq., owner of Ask The Business Lawyer, is an award-winning business attorney, speaker, and Entrepreneur Magazine online contributor. She saves consulting and professional services companies time, money, and aggravation by serving as their outsourced legal counsel.

Posted on August 24, 2011 in IP & Social Media

Post image for How Entrepreneurs Can Protect Their Ideas

In response to my teleclass announcement, I had an inquiry from a reader in Illinois who was wondering how she could protect her idea for a product aimed at children and young adults.

The first thing to recognize is that intangible ideas cannot, in general, be protected — not by using traditional copyright or trademark (or other) forms of intellectual property protection.Before there’s anything tangible to copyright, or used in trade to trademark, there’s an idea that needs to be fleshed out.Or that needs money to help develop it.Your product idea may not have reached the stage where it’s ripe for that kind of intellectual property protection.If you and I are sitting at a bar, and you’re waxing lyrical about the idea (especially any details about it), anyone overhearing you can pick up on the idea and run with it.

That’s where a confidentiality agreement comes into play. Regardless of the embryonic (or other) stage of your idea, it offers a certain level of protection, letting the signer know that you intend to take action if violated.  When worded correctly, the agreement provides that your sensitive information will be kept confidential and will not be disclosed for any purpose.

If you truly believe that your idea has value, RUN – don’t walk – to an intellectual property attorney in your area to get a proper confidentiality agreement that you can use.Download from the Internet all you want, but let the attorney have the final say.He or she will know better than you whether the wording really protects you, or whether there are missing parts that it should contain.If your idea is so spectacular that it deserves protection, a properly-worded confidentiality agreement shows to others that you’re not a rube and that you DO mean business.It’s an excellent screening tool, because if someone refuses to sign it, that should raise a flag that there are issues you need to be concerned with.

Don’t let the prospect of finding a good attorney daunt you.Visit my free podcast on Choosing and Using Attorneys Wisely so that you’ll know which questions to ask!

To get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox, enter your email in the box below:

back to top