Pitching a new business idea can be very nerve wracking. You don’t know how it will go and what people will think of it. And probably the worst thing you could have happen is having your idea stolen. With the three steps given below, you can help prevent this from happening. You should know that legal protection falls into three different categories: copyrights, trademarks, and patents.
This type of legal protection covers any of your artistic and musical ideas including but not limited to songs, paintings, photographs, and books. Copyright protection is put into place when an original piece of work is set into tangible form, meaning that you must be able to prove that you came up with the idea. Once this is accomplished, you have the legal right to produce your work.
If you live in the U.S., you’ll notice that there is no requirement to register your idea. However, if you do have it registered, there are benefits to doing this. Once registered, you have a public record of your copyright which can help you with any infringement claims.
The registration process is different according to the type of material created, but it always involves a processing fee and sending in a copy of your work. The copyright time varies too, but usually it lasts for the duration of the creator’s life plus an extra 70 years.
If you are planning to publish your work and make money from it, then you should be sure to register it. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) is the organization responsible for registering works under the Berne Convention.
Trademarks apply to names, symbols, and words that identify and represent a company or a product. Similar to copyrights, you do not have to register your idea for protection. Also like copyrights, you get benefits if you do register your idea.
When you register, the public is aware that you own the mark. The law will then see that it is your idea and you gain the right to use the registered mark. This means that people cannot then use a similar mark to your own.
If you do decide to register your idea, it’s important that you get your application done professionally, particularly when registering for a trademark as it is more intricate. Getting approval of a trademark has been known to take months, even years. Plus, you will also have to pay an annual fee for the duration of your mark’s protection.
Patents are the third type of legal protection and they are the most important if you have an invention or process that is unique. A patent gives you the exclusive rights to produce and sell products based on your invention while blocking other people from doing so without permission.
The application process is long and expensive but it gives a much longer period of protection than copyrights and trademarks — up to 20 years in some cases. To register your idea with a patent, you must provide a detailed description of the product or process that includes how it works, what it does, and its uses. You will also have to prove that it is unique and cannot be duplicated by anyone else. If you believe that your idea meets this criteria, then a patent attorney will help you with the process of obtaining legal protection for your invention.
Protecting your new business idea doesn’t have to be difficult if you understand the different types of legal protection available and follow the right steps. Following these guidelines could mean you are one step closer to launching a successful business venture.
a. Utility Patent
It is the most common type of patent that entrepreneurs and companies seek. It covers any process, machinery, material composition, articles of manufacture and new and useful improvements. Processes refer to any industrial or technical acts or methods of doing something, machines include objects that can be considered machines (such as a computer), compositions of matter are basically chemical compositions including a mixture of ingredients or new chemical compounds and lastly, articles of manufacture are goods that can be manufactured or manufactured.
The holder to apply for a utility patent, as indicated by name, must have a breakthrough with some useful, novel and non-obvious. Ie, it may not be immediately obvious to anyone with basic skills in the same industry. This patent lasts up to 20 years where the holder during this period may have to renew it.
b. Design patent
The design is defined as the ornamentation of the surface of an article of manufacture, whether the shape or configuration of this. For this type of patent, the design should be separable from the article since it only protects the look of this. For to protect the other aspects, such as structural or functional features, the holder should look for a utility patent. These patents last for 14 years and are notoriously difficult to investigate because the documentation is mostly done in the manufacture of the article pictures or drawings. That is, the entrepreneur should seek help on securing an idea through such patent.
c. Plant patent
This type of patent, as indicated by the name, is intended to protect plants and any new and distinct variety of plants. In order to apply for this protection, The plant can not be propagated by tubers, it can not be found in an uncultivated state and can be reproduced asexually, to ensure that the holder can reproduce the plant. The plant patent lasts 20 years.
It is important that patents are requested as soon as possible. There is a risk of other companies or entrepreneurs also create patents for their ideas and if they are of the same type, the likelihood of getting a patent may decrease. Also, if it takes a lot to ask the patent, the entrepreneur may lose the chance to do so. This is because past 12 months after launching the product on the market, this opportunity will disappear. Source: the-itfactory.com
Approximately 90% of the patent documents issued by the USPTO in recent years have been utility patents, also referred to as “patents for invention.” Source: northtexaslegalnews.com
4. Non-Disclosure Agreements
Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are a legal document that can be used to ensure confidentiality between two or more parties. They should be used in situations where you need to share confidential information for the purpose of developing and protecting a new business idea – such as discussing it with potential investors, collaborators, partners, or advisors.
When creating an NDA, make sure it is written clearly and signed by all parties involved. It should also outline any specific details about the project or product, who will have access to the information, how long they will have access to it, what uses they are allowed to make of it and any penalties if they fail to abide by these terms.
Having an NDA in place serves as a reminder that all parties are legally bound to keep the information confidential and it acts as protection for your business idea in the event that someone does not abide by the agreement.
It’s also important to note that an NDA cannot protect ideas, since ideas can be taken from other sources without infringing on intellectual property rights. An NDA will, however, help protect any specific information related to your idea or product such as processes, machemical compositions, and articles of manufacture. Keeping this data secure is essential for protecting your business idea. Source: upcounsel.com
5. Trade Secrets
Trade secrets are another form of legal protection for business ideas. Businesses typically protect trade secrets by ensuring that only a small number of people have access to the information, and also by having employees sign non-disclosure agreements. It is important to note that trade secret laws vary from country to country and state to state.
Trade secrets can be used to protect any confidential information related to your business idea such as formulas, patterns, inventions, methods or processes. In order for something to qualify as a trade secret in the US, it must meet three criteria:
1) The information has value because it is not generally known or reasonably ascertainable by others;
2) The owner of the information takes reasonable efforts to keep it secret; and
3) The owner derives economic value from keeping the information secret.
If trade secrets are improperly disclosed, companies may be able to take legal action against those responsible in order to protect their ideas from being copied or misused. Source: investopedia.com
As a new business owner, it is important that you understand the different types of legal protection available to protect your idea. Copyrights, trademarks and patents are all viable options depending on what kind of material or product you have developed. Doing your research and getting help from experts such as patent attorneys can help ensure that your idea is safe and secure. With the right knowledge and resources, you will be able to launch a successful venture with the peace of mind knowing that your new business idea is protected.