Protecting a business idea

mercurial

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I'll get right to it. I have a very unique business idea and I was wondering what I could do to protect the idea of the business. Any advice will be great. Thanks!
 

DJ...

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You cannot protect the idea. Simple as that. You can however trademark, patent and copyright to your heart's (and your lawyer's) content...
 

Elimentals

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I'll get right to it. I have a very unique business idea and I was wondering what I could do to protect the idea of the business. Any advice will be great. Thanks!

Someone already had that idea, a better question would be how to protect your implementation of being copied, for that they invented trademarks and patents.
 

DJ...

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Implement it and make money before anyone else.

Absolutely. That is how a free market works. There is no protection afforded because you were the first to think of something. If someone can do it better then you can't stifle that. Unless of course you're a technology giant in this day and age...
 

SilverNodashi

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I'll get right to it. I have a very unique business idea and I was wondering what I could do to protect the idea of the business. Any advice will be great. Thanks!

simple, don't tell anyone about out ;)

But on a more serious note, no business idea can be protected, even if you spend (literally) millions on copyright, trademark, patents, etc.

rather try and do something unique, which other people / companies to date haven't done yet and try and get the biggest slice of your specific market before other guys copy your idea.
 

Flidiot

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The best advise I can give you is to play your cards close to your vest, for as long as possible keep the idea/concept/plan to yourself.

If you need people to join the venture, have contracts in place stating that you will feed various parts of their anatomy to some exotic fish, should they run off with the idea or spill the beans to anyone.

And please, for the love of all that is holy, make dead certain that something similar does not exist and that there is no "talk" about such ideas on various forums/news sites/company websites etc. A colleague of mine had a project go belly-up halfway through development because another company already had a plan in the pipe-line, but didn't make a big noise about it.
 

mercurial

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Thanks for the input, guys. I think what I meant to say was what you guys said - I want to patent it (I think), so that no one else can do it (or at least until I've done it). The problem is that I need to approach a certain company/supplier, who makes a certain product, but by asking them things, I may need to disclose what I intend on doing. That's why I am worried. I don't want to tell anyone about this for fear of someone else taking it and implementing it.
 

mercurial

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simple, don't tell anyone about out ;)

But on a more serious note, no business idea can be protected, even if you spend (literally) millions on copyright, trademark, patents, etc.

rather try and do something unique, which other people / companies to date haven't done yet and try and get the biggest slice of your specific market before other guys copy your idea.

Indeed. My idea for this business has not been done in Cape Town. I can tell you that with certainty, so I have the advantage of it being truly unique. There are just so many things to consider and sometimes it becomes overwhelming. I have no business knowledge whatsoever.


The best advise I can give you is to play your cards close to your vest, for as long as possible keep the idea/concept/plan to yourself.

If you need people to join the venture, have contracts in place stating that you will feed various parts of their anatomy to some exotic fish, should they run off with the idea or spill the beans to anyone.

And please, for the love of all that is holy, make dead certain that something similar does not exist and that there is no "talk" about such ideas on various forums/news sites/company websites etc. A colleague of mine had a project go belly-up halfway through development because another company already had a plan in the pipe-line, but didn't make a big noise about it.

Indeed. Only two other people know about this idea - my wife and a very close friend. Both are under instruction to not tell a soul :D
 

DJ...

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The risks you fear are no different to any other company on this planet. You take the risk. You can patent a product design without manufacturing it. You cannot patent the business idea though. And it will cost you a fair whack to ensure that your patents are covered effectively. You can have a supplier sign an NDA with you - that is standard practice and protects you to a large extent. Most first-time entrepreneurs are far too paranoid about their products. You need the input of partners, suppliers, employees and even friends. There is no point in keeping it to yourself as long as you have a solid business plan and have used that plan to obtain financial investment...
 

DJ...

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Indeed. My idea for this business has not been done in Cape Town. I can tell you that with certainty, so I have the advantage of it being truly unique. There are just so many things to consider and sometimes it becomes overwhelming. I have no business knowledge whatsoever.

If you have no business knowledge then you will need a partner with some expertise. Vcap companies won't be interested. And you need an art-tight NDA structured to protect your business, not your idea...;)
 

mercurial

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Cool, thanks. Where can I get a standard NDA form? Are there resources online for this or do I need a lawyer to draw one up?
 

DJ...

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Cool, thanks. Where can I get a standard NDA form? Are there resources online for this or do I need a lawyer to draw one up?

A bog standard NDA is not the way to go. That is not the way you do business, merc. Sorry if I sound harsh here but you need to understand the realities - there is no point in pu55y-footing around this. In order to make money, you have to spend money - this age old adage is absolutely true. You will need to have an IP lawyer structure an NDA for you based on your business plan. Have this first before talking NDAs and supplier meetings. Do a full costing as accurately as possible without direct supplier involvement until the point that an NDA can be structured and then re-evaluate your forecasts based on their input.

Great ideas are only the start of a good business. Many people have great ideas. Very few implement them well, which is why we experience such a high business mortality rate. Do things properly the first time around to minimise the possibility of failure. I cannot stress enough how important the business plan and supplementary sales and marketing plans are. As is an associated fully detailed financial forecast, covering asset registers, balance sheets, cash flows, debtors, creditors etc.

An idea remains just an idea as long as the business around it is in its infancy and run like just an idea. The moment you run it like a business is the moment that paradigm shift actually begins to reap rewards. Profit is not the reward either. You are in your infancy - longevity is the reward. IMO running a successful business is a mindset, not a standard set of laws that govern what you do. Understanding the repercussions of each action you make now is most important. Understand from a holistic business perspective - financial, administrative, production, human capital, sales, marketing and legal. Cover these bases with every decision you make.

Write up that business plan and make sure it is achievable. Don;t fool yourself here. Ensure you have thought through each and every possible sales and marketing strategy and applied the best combinations. Ensure you have thought of every possible revenue stream and have accounted for them, or not, depending on implementation. Understand that a business plan is not only there to give you guidance, but to help you to obtain finance for your company - i typically draw up two. An internal plan and a financial plan. I submit information memorandums and I keep business plans to myself. You control what others know. And there is no issue disseminating some information - don't be paranoid. Just be confident that you will run a good company by placing yourself around good people, good partners, good suppliers and quality products, while keeping the holistic hat on.

Most people think starting a successful company involves coming up with a new idea. Bollocks to that. It involves running a well managed company - that is all. Having a great idea is a bonus, but you'll only know if it is great by doing the financials, which cannot be completed unless done in conjunction with writing a business and sales and marketing plan.

Good luck...
 

IzZzy

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A bog standard NDA is not the way to go. That is not the way you do business, merc.

I agree fully with DJ.

As part of my ordinary commercial practice, the inception of a deal always involves NDAs and other confidentiality agreements. It also shows that all parties are serious and committed to driving the deal further. Note, however, the downside with all contracts is that you need the financial clout to enforce it should things go bad.

Unless the matter involves complex IP - I would trust a lawyer who specialises in contracts more so than one who specialises in IP. That is, obviously, my biased opinion :)
 

DJ...

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The beauty of an IP lawyer is in my experience, they have sufficient contract law under their belt to help you through the initial NDAs and you begin to build a relationship with someone who will, inevitably, become critical to your business. A decent firm will have this expertise spread across various partner's remits though, but I prefer the more on-on-one relationship that can be built up...
 

DJ...

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And Izzy makes a good point regarding the financial requirements. Enforcing confidentiality agreements can be very costly for a start-up company if necessary. To avoid frivolous suits being filed, the counterparty or the court can demand a lump-sum down-payment before taking the matter further. I forget the legal terms for these now, but that is simply a "deposit" of sorts to show your intent. That doesn't cover legal costs, which can be immense.

This is why the whole paranoia regarding privacy business plans is ridiculous. Just build a good plan and implement it well and you're on your way. You simply cannot protect yourself from competition, and to be honest, competition is a good thing...
 

IzZzy

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I forget the legal terms for these now, but that is simply a "deposit" of sorts to show your intent. That doesn't cover legal costs, which can be immense.

Where the party bringing a suit is a peregrinus or a company (in terms of the Co Act), the counterparty asks for "security for costs". Nice tool :p

But yeah, I have no issue with an IP lawyer as long as you find one skilled on the (basic) commercial side of things.
 
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