Protecting an Idea . . . Like Grasping Smoke?

Posted on August 16, 2013 in IP & Social Media

Post image for Protecting an Idea . . . Like Grasping Smoke?

I received an e-mail out of the blue recently about how to protect an idea. Not a plan, not a project, not something tangible . . . but a thought about a new approach to pet care. That’s about as much information as I have. Understandably, the entrepreneur was reluctant to disclose the idea because it hadn’t been patented yet (assuming patent protection was even appropriate). But she wanted to know how to get started.

It’s very hard to protect an idea, especially if you haven’t fleshed out any of the technology or marketing around it. You can create a nondisclosure agreement and try to get people to sign before you discuss your idea with them–but sometimes they will, and sometimes they won’t.

Your next steps depend on what you want to do with the idea. Do you just want to sell the idea to someone else or start a business around the idea? If the latter, the local office of the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) or a small business development center in a local university can sometimes provide counseling help. Both are programs established by the Small Business Administration to encourage entrepreneurship. And both are free. 🙂 Also, if the idea is similar to something that’s already on the market, there may be reference books with business plans that can give you guidance about the steps to take.

But if you’re serious about making money from an idea, you need to be prepared to invest money in it–even if it’s just the investment in consultations with attorneys and accountants (both of whom have ethical obligations to keep what they learn confidential). The money you spend getting the advice for your particular situation will be well worth the time you would otherwise spend amassing possibly irrelevant information.

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

back to top