How do you protect a business idea?

By David Ashplant

The reality is that most business ideas, once they are out in the market place, cannot be protected from competition. If you are quick off the mark you will get first mover advantage.

Before talking to others about your idea you should get them to sign a confidentiality agreement, often called an NDA, or non-disclosure agreement. This gives you some protection if they steal your idea and it is still secret and not in the public domain.

Your success will come from how good you are in implementing your idea and the strength of your brand. If your idea is a good one you are bound to face competition when others become aware of it.

You should secure relevant domain names before you go public and look at getting a trade mark that no one else can use to re-enforce your brand.

You will have copyright in things such as your website, your software and logo, if you or an employee created these. If others substantially copy these they will infringe your rights but if, for example, they write software which is sufficiently different and does the same thing that won’t breach your copyright.

Make sure when you engage others to do things for you that they agree in writing that any rights arising in the work they do will belong to you, otherwise they will own the rights and you will just have a licence to use them, which can stop you changing the work and is likely to reduce the value of your business.

About the author

David Ashplant is Partner at Lester Aldridge.


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