How Can I Protect my Business Ideas?
Published on 05.02.10
Here are a number of simple actions that will help you take ownership of your creative business ideas before you divulge them. The more proactive you are, the better protected you’ll be.
This article is the response to a recent question prompted by my last article: Crystallizing Your Creative Business (Part 1).
I come across the same brand of apprehension and hesitation amongst a lot of would-be creative entrepreneurs. I know I felt the same in the past when I’ve been looking to pitch my business plans and ideas to potential stakeholders (be they prospective partners, clients, suppliers or financiers).
The problem with ideas is that they seem to be so easy to steal. “I show it to you… then it’s yours too”. In reality, this need not be the case. Let me share some techniques that helped put my mind at ease. Please feel free to add your own thoughts and experiences in the comments section. These are just mine.
First suggestion: reduce that idea to material form in some way that crystallizes value.
Remember: YOU CANNOT COPYRIGHT AN IDEA! Ideas are a dime a dozen, it’s the recipe and the resolve to actually realise that idea that will turn it into gold. The resolve is up to you but the recipe… you’ll need help protecting that.
Point of departure: find a way of making your product or service unique – some way you can take ownership of it. Develop it into something concrete that you can own. As it happens, this is the same trick that’ll help make your business successful at the end of the day so it’s a worthwhile endeavor.
The idea for quick take-away burgers that you can buy without getting out of your car is NOT COPYRIGHTABLE. The recipe, the floor layouts, the brand name, the secret sauce – these have IP that you can protect and own.
Second suggestion: upload the related files to Myows so you have some proof that it was in-hand when you say it was.
You’ll also have Myows there to help you take action if they do run away with your work. Safety in numbers!
Third suggestion: Maximize deterrents.
So yeah, that CA comes in handy here – it shows that you mean business, it also acts as a record of your meeting and the fact that you showed them documents X and Y on date Z (a date that occurred after the date when you protected your work on Myows… taa daa).
You’ll also find deterrent banners and other psychological help here or on your Myows profile. Free and easy to use.
Better yet, make friends with a lawyer (give him a 5% share) and invite him to your meetings with you.
One thing to bear in mind about all this is that, if you can show your strategic acumen and creative genius to the company or people you are approaching, they will usually see you as a valuable asset/partner. Most small companies/financiers/potential partners don’t have the time, energy or capacity to take your idea and run with it. You are the fire starter, you have the passion and the knowledge. If you don’t, get it fast or walk away.
*NOTE: this is especially true of smaller companies and individuals with a solid track record and reputation. And make sure you’re talking to somebody that has a decent reputation to protect – more on this below…
Another thing to bear in mind: Do your homework on the company or individual that you are approaching. The web is a wonderful tool for getting the lowdown in situations like this.
Spend an hour digging. If you come across dodgy tales: run. Screaming. And remember that if you have a dodgy experience yourself, shout it out so the next guy doesn’t get burned to. Us clever creative types need to get each others’ backs a whole lot more than we do right now. Again: safety in numbers.
At the end of the day, the more closely you tie yourself with your idea – the more difficult it will be for the other party to separate the two of you. Be the business – know everything there is to know, create valuable and related networks around yourself and protect your ideas as best you can. And if they still steal your ideas, let us know at Myows and we’ll help you kick up a serious fuss