Editor’s Note: Here at Dispatches, we are always looking for ways to help our readers do things. For some of our readers, that means helping navigate the working world, for others, it means assisting in the ever challenging question,“what’s for dinner?” For still others, it means figuring out how to balance family life with everything else. In an effort to aid in all of these endeavors, we have collaborated on this article written specifically for our readers.
Even solopreneurs can run into issues with industrial espionage. Your ideas can be valuable to many different people and organizations. Unless you protect yourself, there is a possibility someone could steal your idea or even open a copycat business next door.
When you start a new company, you are probably not thinking about intellectual property but you should be thinking about intellectual property.
Most business owners focus on developing a product or services and getting it out to the market as soon as possible. It’s in the development stage that you should be looking into copyrights and patents. Without acquiring those, you have no proof the idea and concept is yours. If you have questions, consult with a lawyer who specializes in intellectual property.
You should also run a thorough trademark search before you start your business. Doing so will make sure that you aren’t infringing on another business name that is similar to your own. Look around for more info on trademarks beyond just a simple Google search.
If you think you ever might want to sell a product or service abroad, make sure your trademark search is that broad. There may already be a company in America or Europe using your preferred name. Consider acquiring full, universal rights to your business name and concepts at the beginning to avoid running into this later.
At some point, you will need to show your product to many other people. It could be employees or a business partner, investors or contractors, or a select group of customers to test the new product. It is essential that you look into non-disclosure agreements – or NDAs prior to sharing your ideas. This will prevent them from revealing key details about your idea to competitors or stealing it outright.
Finally, even with legal protection, it can still be hard to prove someone has stolen your ideas. However, by documenting everything your business does, it will give you more evidence to stake your claim. Paper trails, conceptual designs, development logs – they can all give you vital proof should an issue arise.