Do you have a great idea that you think will make you millions? You better protect it. As sure as you think it’s a good idea, someone else is likely to hear about it and think it’s a good idea also. If you aren’t careful, someone will steal your idea and reap those profits for themselves.
The trouble with intellectual property is that it is often intangible. How do you prove that you had an idea before someone else? Or that the idea was unique to you and wasn’t something that someone else would have come up with on their own?
There are a few things you can do to protect your idea and your future profits. Here are a few key steps you can take:
Get Trademarks and Copyrights
Copyrights protect tangible items like works of art, writing, and songs, while trademarks protect intangible items like slogans, logos, and names.
Some things, like your logo, can be both trademarked and copyrighted. Your logo art work can be copyrighted, while the name and idea can be trademarked. Click here to learn more about how to trademark and copyright your logo.
Plan to trademark or copyright everything that you can. Doing so will protect your ideas so that no one else can steal them or create something that is too similar. You’ll protect the purity of your brand, and you’ll ensure that you are the only one who gets the rewards for your hard work and great ideas. If you don’t know how to fill in a trademark application, or you’re unable to execute a trademark search, it’s always better to engage the services of an expert.
Register for the Right Business Entity
You can choose to operate your business as a sole proprietorship, or you can register as a limited-liability corporation (LLC) or a corporation.
While an LLC provides protections so that you do not risk losing your personal assets in the event of being sued, it also makes you share your intellectual property and the profits from it.
You will need to think carefully through your goals for your product or service and then weigh those against the potential liability in your company. The benefit of diluting your liability may be worth more than the potential profits that you will have to share.
Talk with a financial advisor and a lawyer so that you fully understand the benefits and drawbacks of each of your options and you are able to make the right choice.
Get Non-Disclosure Agreements
Your intellectual property may be a secret recipe for a sauce you sell in local shops, or it may be the coding for a piece of software that provides a valuable solution.
Besides putting protections in place to make sure that no one cracks the secret, you also need to make sure that any of your employees or partners don’t get any ideas and try to steal or sell the secret. Someone could try to make a buck by sharing the secret, or disgruntled employees could try to steal what you have after being fired.
Hire a lawyer to draw up iron-clad non-disclosure agreements, and make sure that every person you work with signs one. Of course, it won’t prevent people from doing what they are going to do, but it will make them think twice about it and it will give you recourse if anyone spills the beans. You’ll get some financial compensation to make up for what’s been stolen.
Get a Patent
A patent protects inventions, machinery, and other objects that you create. You can get a patent for everything from a special mop that you’ve created to a coffee maker.
Your creation has to be unique in order to be patented, and you’ll have to pay a hefty fee to get the patent. However, you’ll get strong protection against anyone trying to steal your idea or create their own knockoff.
Make sure you get the patent as quickly as you can. You may be surprised to know how fast a competitor can find out about your idea and recreate it for themselves.
It is important that you institute all the protections that are available to you for your intellectual property. Make sure you also think through how to protect your property for things like marketing and other essential business expenses.