I often get asked “What if my idea gets stolen?” or “If I show my idea to a licensor or a manufacturer what prevents them from just knocking off my idea?
This fear often has crippled a product inventor’s progress to such an extent that they are still fearfully holding onto their idea and instead of their product sitting on the shelf – they are still sitting on the fence and their idea has been frozen in time.
I do, however, agree that it pays to be cautious when exposing your product concept to others.
Today you can simply download Confidentiality Agreements, Non Disclosure agreements and Independent Contractor Agreements
saving a small fortune in legal fees.
I recommend that a product inventor have everyone who is exposed to initial product concepts and designs sign an appropriate document in order to protect themselves. This includes: graphic artists, product designers, manufacturers, rep, temps, employees etc.
However, you can never protect yourself 100%. So once you have executed the appropriate legal documents to protect yourself it is time to move on and accept the fact that it is the first one to market who takes the prize.
I like Tim Berry’s answer to this very question – see http://www.entrepreneur.com/answer/222315
Here is an excerpt:
“Serious investors generally don't sign confidentiality agreements. If they did, they'd rule out a whole class of ventures for having looked at one, whether they liked that one or not. Almost every attorney you ask will tell you that you have to have a confidentiality agreement without caring a bit about the fact that most serious people and companies won't sign them because it cuts their future freedom.
And yet another problem is that you can't "own" an idea. Patents protect inventions, copyright protects creative works, trademarks protect commercial words and images. Nothing legally protects an idea. You don't own it.
The only way you really protect an idea is to build a company, launch it, bring it to market and stake out your territory like an explorer planting a flag. You'll want to be so good and so fast that no larger company copies it and beats you at your own game. Copying is excruciatingly legal in our economy. Nothing protected Yahoo from Google, for example.”
I totally agree with Mr Berry. You have to be the first one out there - with a quality product and at the best price.
Your Brand is what will give your idea its value. So being the first Brand to market enables you to create consumer awareness and this, in turn, establishes your credibility in the marketplace and solidifies your position as No. 1.
So make sure that you trademark your product name (if unique) and your brand name and copyright your designs.
For more information on protecting your idea and how to take your product idea to market – read “The Caboodles Blueprint”
Causes Leonie Mateer Supports
St Judes Children's Research Foundation
Conservation international Foundation
Breast Cancer Research Foundation