How To Keep a New Business Idea Protected


Brian Wallace, Founder & President, NowSourcing

In an intensely competitive world, finding a great business idea that has the potential to earn you rich returns is challenging as it is. When you’ve been working hard to develop a fantastic concept, you’ll want to keep it protected until a marketable prototype is ready. Since you’ll need assistance to create the prototype, you may have to share the concept with employees or manufacturers who can convert the design into an actual product. At this time, you run the risk of these entities stealing the idea and releasing the product in the market before you. To prevent this situation, you must get legal protection. Read ahead to understand how:

Get Potential Investors and Stakeholders to Sign NDAs

Whether you’re looking for investors to fund your business idea or hiring a team of technicians to create or develop the prototype, make sure to get them to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This document acts as a legal safeguard to prevent sensitive and confidential information and intellectual property from being leaked and revealed by the person with who you’re sharing it. Most startups use the protection of an NDA. But if your investors are unwilling to sign this document, you can instead add a confidentiality statement when preparing your presentation materials.

Get Patents for Your Ideas

Patents can be utility patents, plant patents, or design patents, and you’ll apply for the appropriate one that matches the category of the business idea you’ve developed. To state an example, a novel product,  machine, process, or method for performing a task, quickly and more efficiently requires a utility patent. You’ll file an application with the U.S Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and comply with the mandatory guidelines. Typically, you’ll need to maintain a complete record of the step-by-step procedure you followed when developing the concept.

Get Your Company Name and Brand Trademarked

Your company name, brand, logo, tagline, and other identifying features are valuable intellectual property. Once you’ve finalized these designs, contact a trademark lawyer and acquire the rights on them. A critical facet of getting the trademark is the time stamp. In case a legal issue arises like, for example, a competitor claiming to have developed the idea before you, the trademark will prove that your concept was already under progress on the specified date. This added layer of protection can prove critically helpful in a court of law.

Get All Business Contracts Notarized

As explained above, you might have to partner with manufacturers who can mass-produce the idea for marketing to customers. Or, you may need to hire a team of people who can assist you with making the product or performing some of the essential tasks to make the business a functional entity. Before starting work with these persons, you’ll want to enter into contracts. Although the law does not mandate that these contracts be notarized, bringing in a notary to certify the documents could help protect your business. 

Notarization verifies the identities of the people entering into the contract and their signatures. In case of a legal dispute, notarization holds the signatories liable for the clauses in the contract. Depending on the nature of the business you’re starting, you could read up on how to start an online notary business, and perhaps, get an employee to acquire certification and act as an in-house official. 

Once you’ve developed a viable business concept, you must act quickly to safeguard the idea. Check with trained lawyers to direct you on the legal protection you can get and prevent the possibility of intellectual property theft. 

Brian WallaceAbout the Author: Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian runs #LinkedInLocal events, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Adviser for 2016-present. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.