Businesses thrive on new ideas. There are some enterprises whose sole aim is to develop new ideas. Given the competitive nature of business it’s only human nature once and new ideas been formed and developed starts to worry about your competitors getting their first stealing your bright idea. Everybody has heard about patents and they are a wonderfully useful tool given that they are the type of intellectual property specifically designed for inventions. However many people are put off applying for a patent. Firstly because if granted your invention will be on the patent register for the whole world to see. Secondly the whole process can take years and be costly.
If these reasons do put you off there are other ways you can protect your business idea.
You will inevitably deal with suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and others when you take the fruits of your idea to the marketplace. Have anyone you work with sign a non-disclosure agreement which binds all parties to keep sensitive information confidential. As it is a contract should the other party break it you would be entitled to seek damages for breach of contract.
If you employ somebody to work with you on sensitive information make sure there is not only a confidentiality clause in their contract, but also a non-compete clause.
Apply for a trademark
Patents protect inventions and trademarks protect signs, names and brands, however protecting your product brand using a trademark does provide ownership. If the brand becomes particularly successful then the product/invention it sells becomes synonymous with you which can only be a good thing.
If you work contains original graphic, artistic or literary material you should certainly claim copyright over it.
This is a separate field of intellectual property law and one a later blog article will deal with in depth. There is some crossover between Patten’s and design rights and if you do wish to avoid going down the patent fruit it might be that the protection of design rights offers you is more appropriate.
Lastly though this article deals with alternatives to patents, often obtaining one can be the best course of action. It very much depends on the case-by-case basis.
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