When you have a great idea for a product or service, the hope is that everyone in the world will want to own that product or use that service. The problem is, there are also people lurking in the shadows just waiting to steal and copy a great idea to ride your coattails to success. When you start to pitch your product to investors, new employees and partners, you need to make sure that you have protected your business.
Imagine the horror of having your idea stolen by someone else before you get a chance to solidify your product on the market. When you go to pitch new investors, do a little research on who you are dealing with before you divulge too much information about your business. The same applies to hiring the right team to help you produce and market your idea. Make sure that you trust the people that you are letting into your business.
Investors are now commonly referred to as “sharks”, but they aren’t vultures. Sharks can smell a great idea and will want to get in on the action, supporting you, and guiding you to further success. A vulture will wait around for you to drop a few pieces of information and then snatch up the scraps to make a similar – albeit often inferior – product. Make sure you are dealing with sharks, not vultures when you go to pitch.
So, before you go and shop around your idea to potential investors, take a few steps to make sure that you have protected your ideas and your intellectual property. A true investor will also appreciate that you took these steps because they don’t want a competitor to steal your idea any more than you.
Don’t reveal too much too soon when pitching to investors
You can pitch an idea without getting into the nitty-gritty of how your product works. Once an investor has signed on, they can become privy to more information, but all they need to know in the beginning is why your product is great, and how much money you project you will make.
Use a non-disclosure (ND) agreement when hiring a team
When you hire people to work on your product, you may need to reveal more about the intricate working details to see if the person you hire is right for the job. In that case, having potential workers sign an ND is an excellent way to protect your property.
Get a provisional patent to protect your idea in the startup phase
Since you are out pitching and looking for capital, chances are you can’t afford to get a full patent on your product. For startups, getting a provisional patent can help protect your idea for up to a year while you go to look for startup money and hiring the right team. Hopefully, by the time the provisional patent expires, you’ll have investors who will foot the bill for a long-term patent.
Next up: patents, trademarks, and copyrights.