Guarding your ideas

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“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”

– Lee Iacocca

Entrepreneurs are naturally innovative and creative, and consequently they often develop ideas to exploit potential opportunities: entrepreneurs see what isn’t there yet, but should be. This raises three very important questions you have to be able to answer before you’re ready to share your concepts with the world:

1. Why do you have to protect your ideas?

Often when an entrepreneur has a great business idea, they fear that in sharing their thoughts with others, the idea might be stolen or imitated. The fear is not unfounded – we all remember when the Winklevoss brothers sued Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg for $65 million, claiming he stole their idea to create the social networking site.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to turn an idea into a business without the help of others, especially when you do not have the required knowledge or funding to start the business. Fortunately, there are many ways to pool resources and collaborate with others whilst simultaneously keeping your idea secure.

2. How can you protect your ideas?

There are various ways to protect your intellectual property, some of which are more expensive than others. The most recognised would be patents, registered designs, trademarks and copyright. Each country has their own way of enforcing these methods of protection through legislation, and the information would be readily available online. There are other, less expensive and less time consuming legal methods you can use to protect your ideas, these include non-disclosure agreements, non-compete agreements and work-for-hire agreements.

Patents:

A patent is used to protect an invention. An invention can take a number of forms, such as: a process, a method, a machine, a device, a new material, a chemical compound or chemical composition.

Registered Designs:

Registered designs are control rights that are granted on the outward appearance of an object – for example the Google search bar, it is the only search bar that appears exactly in the middle of the browser.

Trademarks:

Trademarks are words or marks (such as logos) that are used to differentiate the goods or services of the trade mark owner from the goods and services of another

Copyright:

Copyright is a form of intellectual property protection that prevents another party from copying (or performing certain other activities in respect of) a work provided for and covered by the Copyright Act without the authorisation of the copyright owner

Non-disclosure Agreements:

A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legal contract between several parties that establishes the confidentiality of shared knowledge or materials and restricts third party access.

Non-compete Agreements:

A non-compete clause is a term used in contract law under which one party agrees not to enter into or start a similar profession or trade in competition against another party

Work-for-hire Agreements:

If a work is made for hire, an employer is considered the author even if an employee actually created the work.

3. When should you protect your ideas?

It is important to remember that, the idea that you had in the shower this morning will stay in the shower if you don’t get out and do something about it. An idea will never become a reality without a champion:

Imagine every new concept as an Arthurs’ sword. It takes motivation, dedication and perseverance to find and pull the sword from the rock – it takes even more to fill the spaces at the round table and keep a Kingdom safe from its enemies. If you do not have the passion for an idea, if you cannot be its champion it won’t succeed. In this case, share your ideas with others you think might have the desire to start the business and rather keep an agreed upon amount of shares for your intellectual property.

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