No one wants their idea to be stolen. However, as a budding inventor, it's tempting to simply tell everyone about your idea. There are ways to make sure that your idea is kept safe and it’s up to you to choose which route you’re ready to take. Here are three ways to make sure that your idea doesn’t get stolen before you’ve filed a patent application.
Publish Your Work
This method may seem counter productive, but it is arguably the best way to truly protect your idea before filing a patent. But it comes with a major caveat: you must be ready to officially file a patent application within a year after the publish date. In addition to the time crunch, this method may be risky, depending on who else you may need to compete with once the idea is publicly available.
Publishing your work or making it public in various ways (demonstration, presentation, video, etc.) automatically makes it prior art. This means that if someone else tries to patent the idea, they won't be able to, as there will be prior art available. If you can prove ownership of the published information, you have one year from the date of publication or public notice to apply for a patent with this idea. If a year lapses and you then try to apply for a patent application, your own published idea will be considered prior art against you. This means that not even you can apply for a patent application for your own idea.
Use an NDA
If you’re not ready to make your idea public, but you’d like to start speaking with consultants, manufacturers, or investment partners, have them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement or NDA. This protects your idea from being stolen by those you speak with before your idea is publicly known. An NDA is important, even once you have a patent in hand. The competition could try to swipe your patented idea out from underneath you if it’s revolutionary, like L’Oreal did to Olaplex when the company was in talks for an acquisition. Hopefully, most companies won’t break an NDA like L’Oreal did, but having an NDA in place sure protected Olaplex when the time for legal action came.
This idea is simple, but could be difficult for some people to stick with. As humans, we naturally get excited about new ideas and projects and want feedback on them. This isn't always a bad thing. After all, sometimes the best way to develop a new idea is to collaborate and discuss it with someone else. However, bringing your idea up at every single cocktail party and barbecue isn't a great idea if you haven't yet taken protective measures.
Once your idea becomes definite enough that others could take it and run with it, it's important to practice some common sense and discretion. Think twice before bringing it up in conversation... even with people you know and trust. Ensure that there is a paper trail of your development of the idea, and consult with an IP professional early to determine the best preliminary steps.
Global Patent Solutions can assist you as you develop your idea. Whether you need to see if there's prior art, or you need to determine the most profitable direction to take it, our professional patent search services can help direct you. Contact us today.