Before I start, this applies to not only tech startups but others as well. You can use some or all of the tips below when starting up.
- Get a utility or design patent: PACRA (Patents and Companies Registration Act) exists for a reason! Utility patents protect against other people copying the way your product works, while design patent protects against copying what your product looks like. You can download a patent form from PACRA here after discussing what type of patent you’d like with them. See the patent fees here too. If the patents are too expensive, apply for a provisional one that lasts for about a year. Make sure you also protect any software you may have come up with if the idea involves any. Trademark your logo and branding if you can as well.
- Sign a Non-Disclosure/Confidentiality Agreement: this can be a document that you can sign with potential investors or others you may be discussing the idea with not to speak to anyone else about it. It’s like a legal gag. If they do go against the agreement, you have every right to sue them. Below is a sample of a non-disclosure agreement from Thriving Business.com.
- Do the funding yourself: it’s always a good idea to start things by yourself if you can. This way you don’t have to spend sleepless nights wondering which person you’ve told about the idea and hoping will fund it, screws you over! Get a patent, and DIY!
- Follow your instinct, after research: find out who you NEED to deal with, not who you WANT to, and follow your gut after that. Startup venturing is a risk. That’s just how it is. You have to trust your instinct. Please always deal with trusted people that others have recommended who respect their clients’ confidentiality. You can also avoid revealing too much, just give the basic details depending on who you’re talking to but still convey your idea.
- Document EVERYTHING: it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 5 minute discussion or an hour long pitch. Document every single thing you do regarding your startup idea because if for any reason you are called out to court for something that others claim did not happen, you will have proof of it.
If you are a startup entrepreneur and have any tips to share on protecting startup ideas, please comment below…