Inventors Lab . . . Protecting Your Idea
Will Someone Take Your Idea?
One of the biggest fears I see among inventors is that someone will “steal” their idea. It’s not unreasonable, especially if it’s a sweet idea, but with a little care and some confidentiality, you need not let this fear constrain your pursuit.
Be prudent in how you share ideas. To succeed, you do need to share with those that can help you, so let’s talk about the smart ways to do it.
Patents are the first thing many people think about for protecting ideas. Yes, they can be good in many ways, but they also have their down-sides — namely cost and time. Depending on your situation, a Patent may be exactly what is needed. Don’t go hastily, however. There may be alternatives that can save a bundle — or at least delay the investment and allow time for the concepts to mature.
Alternatives for confidentiality include Provisional Patents, Design Patents, NDA’s, and Trade Secrets. Seek knowledgeable advise, of course, because all of these have their place.
Stay tuned, we’ll discuss some of the legal agreements below, and a lot more about patents in the next Inventors Lab topic.
Legal Agreements – NDA
One smart thing is to use something called a CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT — also known as an NDA (or Non-Disclosure Agreement) — which is a legal promise not to share. The essence of an NDA reminds everyone that there is Intellectual Property involved, and all parties need to show respect to the ownership of the IP. Again, my experience shows that reputable vendors are not interested in “stealing” your idea, they just want to help. The NDA then serves as a formal reminder that the content of the project must be considered confidential. If they’re reputable, they’ll honor it.
An attorney is the best source for an NDA if you want something specific, but that can get expensive. From what I’ve seen, every attorney’s office has “their version” of an NDA, and though they are all a little different, they basically all say the same things — some are just more wordy. Whatever you use, make sure you understand what is being said — and remember, the confidentiality agreement goes both ways.
As an alternative, to purchasing your own special NDA, we’ve posted our “boiler-plate” one with this page for download. It’s simple and concise as a good place to start. Feel free to use this as a base, or modify it to fit your specific needs — but . . .
Finally, please remember, these documents don’t guarantee anything. They’re good to have, but your FIRST, and most important course is to use judgment when you talk with others about your invention.