I often get calls from members who are looking for a Business Partner or Investor but are concerned about how much they can reveal of their business idea.
It is a conundrum; because on one hand you need to tell something of your business idea in order to attract a partner or funding, but too much and surely the idea will just be stolen. In my experience this is the 5 actions you must do before telling all:
Determine if your idea is patentable. Generally patents relate to new inventions that are not obvious to anyone with knowledge of the subject and can be used in some sort of industry.
You may need to employ a patent agent in order to see if your idea is patentable. We have more about patent agents in our resource pages.
If it is patentable, you should not tell anyone about it until you have applied for the patent, otherwise the idea could be considered in the public domain.
- If it is not patentable, can the design of your product or brand be registered?
Design registration applies to the shape, colour and style of products that aren’t in themselves new ideas but protect your particular design.Again we have an article on our resource pages on this, see Design Registration.
- Think about protecting your brand. This is your logo, product names or packaging and any distinguishing ways you have of representing yourself. See How Trademarks Work and this resource has information on Copyrights.
- Spotted a gap in the market? Have a novel way of doing business?
Unfortunately there’s no registration that will protect ways of doing business or addressing a new market area.
If you are concerned about discussing your original idea for a business with a potential partner or Investor you could ask them to sign a Non-disclosure Agreement. You can see a NDA example here.
- Finally, get first mover advantage. If your great business idea really is good, eventually others will start to copy you. This is inevitable, but by being the first to market you will already have captured some customer’s loyalty and will be ahead of the competition in terms of understanding the market and developing your product or service.
To grab that first mover advantage you must move fast and when you have launched keep innovating, don’t rest on your laurels.
To give a bit of reassurance, in all the time that I have been advising and helping people with business plans and bringing business partners and Investors together I’ve seen no cases where an idea has been stolen.
Generally it is the implementation of the business idea rather than the idea itself which counts. There are a lot of good ideas, but most never get off the drawing board and the ones that are successful are those that are not only acted upon, but are executed brilliantly.