You have a good idea. It could be an invention with the potential to change how people do business, or a catchy brand name for your next venture. You want to take it to the next stage and do something with it. Here are three tips on how to protect your good idea and secure the first-mover advantage.
1. Discretion: Be Initially Careful How and With Whom You Share It
Whether you want to on-board investors or take an offering to market, the early stages of any idea’s development can be the most risky. When first starting out, make sure you can trust your potential business partners, investors, and advisors to act in your best interests and to keep your valued ideas confidential. Certain professionals, like a lawyer you retain, will be obligated to do so. For others, you should consider a (written) confidentiality agreement before sharing your ideas and business plans with them.
2. Protection: Consider Applying for a Trademark or Patent
Next, before going to market, consider protecting your catchy brand name with a trademark or filing a patent application to protect your revolutionary invention. Otherwise, down the road, you may find yourself with unwanted competition and no exclusive rights, nor any way to distinguish your business from innumerable others.
Your business’ Intellectual Property can include confidential information, patent pending inventions, trademarked brand names, and copyrighted works. Like other property, the more time and effort you put into your Intellectual Property (or IP), the greater its potential value. Also like other property, IP can be an asset and its value can be captured within your enterprise. To do so, you should also consider getting the right IP ownership and assignment documents in place out of the gates – i.e., to ensure that all your IP will be held by your business and to make things as attractive as possible for your potential investors.
3. Initiative: Secure the First-Mover Advantage
It makes sense to map out how Intellectual Property filings and protection can best fit within your larger go-to-market strategy. When done correctly, patent and trademark protection can help you secure a “first-mover advantage” for your business.
With the right confidentiality agreements and IP protections in place, you might also (or instead) consider whether there may be any opportunities to commercialize your IP under a joint venture agreement or with licensing and royalties.
One more thing: Whether or not you apply for protection on your IP, your business materials can (and should) put others on notice of your intention to protect your proprietary trademarks and copyrights – e.g., by using the ™ and © symbols. These symbols can be used for registered and unregistered trademarks and copyrights alike. So, make sure you take advantage of the IP protections freely available for your business.
Of course, having a great idea can be a good start, but properly executing it (with the right team of advisors and partners by your side) will be what makes it thrive.
Kevin Holbeche is an Intellectual Property lawyer and registered patent and trademark agent with over 15 years of experience. Previously a partner in one of Canada’s biggest law firms, he founded HOLBECHE LAW in 2016 to assist those who want to protect, manage, buy, sell, license and enforce their intellectual property. Kevin helps to build IP asset portfolios, and to make deals happen for the companies and people who own them. Visit www.patentpatent.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issues of Neighbours of Lorne Park, of Neighbours of Port Credit, of Neighbours of Mississauga Road, and of Neighbours of High Park published by Best Version Media