Protecting my business idea
So you've got a big idea? You may be just one small step away from making that a reality, but one of the challenges you'll face is protecting your unique idea.
Both inventors and existing companies looking to launch new products have to overcome the problem of sharing their new idea with investors and partners without giving too much away.
Why protect your idea?
What you don't want is to come up with a great idea only to find that someone else has their eye on a similar project. But while keeping an idea to yourself is never easy, the fact is once an idea is 'in the public domain' it is not possible to protect its Intellectual Property (IP) rights. And it's the IP that is often at the core of a product's value.
Once you've passed the three-stage hurdle of having an idea, checking no one else is doing it and seeing how commercially viable it is, then the value of your idea will be in some way measured by the strength of the protection of its Intellectual Property – whether it be patent, trademark or copyright. If an idea can be easily copied it has little value, as 'Me Too' businesses will be quick to jump on the bandwagon. Conversely, a well-protected business idea may have excellent scaling potential through franchising.
Sharing your idea
So how much information do you give away? Trevor Baylis, famed inventor of the wind-up radio, heads up a company – Trevor Baylis Brands plc – that offers advice and support to aspiring entrepreneurs.
John Grant MBE, IP Consultant to Trevor Baylis Brands, suggests that only limited information should be disclosed until a formal confidentiality agreement is in place, also known as a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA).
'Our free inventor pack has a sample NDA,' explains John. 'One of the key issues in getting a good NDA is to make sure that there is a reasonable timeframe built into it. Three to five years is not uncommon but once that agreement is in place you will need to reveal all your information in order for your potential supplier, advisor, partner or investor to assess the uniqueness or commerciality of your idea.' Take a look at Trevor Baylis Brands' free inventor pack , but remember Barclays cannot take any responsibility for the content of third-party drafted NDAs.
Many people are surprised to find that neither registering a name with Companies House nor the purchase of a domain name offers you any legal protection over your business idea. The only way to be fully covered is to protect yourself with a patent, trademark or copyright. To find out more, either liaise directly with the UK Intellectual Property Office or appoint your own Patent Attorney who will consider all IP issues for you.