HOW DO I PROTECT MY BUSINESS IDEA?
The most valuable resource in the world is not found in the ground, as gold, diamonds, and oil; it is, and will always be ideas in the minds of people, when harnessed properly. Some of the most valuable companies, in the world today, like Alibaba (China), Facebook (USA), Google (USA), are less than 15 years old, and yet each one of them is worth much more than some of the biggest resource companies like Anglo American (SA), BHP (Australia), which were built over 100 years.
Companies like Apple, Alibaba, Google, and Facebook, are not built on natural resources, but harnessed ideas, better known as innovations. The amount of cash held by the top four tech companies, like Apple, Google, and Samsung, is more than all the economies of Africa, as well as all the economies of Latin America.
I believe that each one of us, has the capacity to come up with “witty inventions”, which can dramatically improve the lives of millions, whilst at the same time creating wealth for our nations.
You might have an idea, for something completely new, or you might have an idea to improve something that exists, or you are working and have an idea to improve a process, or solutions that can make your organisation more profitable, or efficient.
Many people do not know what to do when they have an idea, particularly one with which to start, even a new business. And this is what I want to talk about, in this post:
The first thing, you must have is respect for ideas, and to value ideas.
In business when an idea has been harnessed properly, we call it, Intellectual Property (IP). Never steal or misuse other people’s ideas, particularly when they are protected by patents, and Trade Marks, Copy writes, or Trade Secrets, measures.
When you have an idea, which you think is a new innovation, or even invention, don’t go around telling everyone you meet (including your friends), this is like leaving your wallet on a bar counter, to go to the toilet!
Discretion, discretion, discretion….!!!
Some people prepare detailed, documents and send them to third parties, whom they think can help them. If you do that you will end in tears, and you probably don’t deserve any sympathy!
So what do you do, if you have a new innovation, or business idea?
The first thing to remember is that, you are not the first person to have a new idea, even if your idea is the first of its kind. So there are well set out, and well established procedures, for the protection of inventions, and business ideas. It is your job, to find out, these things, if you want to become a serious business person, that will become a regional or continental player, and one day even global.
One of the most important things you do when you set up any business, is to get to know a good lawyer, and to build a relationship with that lawyer. You do not get a lawyer, because you are in trouble with the law, or in a dispute.
Most of the work of lawyers, in businesses has nothing to do with disputes, and courts. So, if you are in business, go find a lawyer today; tell them you are not in any trouble, but you need them because you are planning to grow into a serious business, one day. This is wise counsel.
If you are a business person, and you do not count a lawyer among your friends, then you are not yet ready for the big time. When your business is small, you can also find lawyers, who are also just starting out. Or even young lawyers who are happy to give you advice in the evenings. Develop a habit of always running, what you are planning to do past a lawyer friend.
When it comes to the protection of ideas, most commercial lawyers, will be able to tell you what to do, and many of the standard agreements, that you need to have can even be obtained Online. It is not a complicated area of the law and even a young lawyer, will be able to help you.
When we sit down to discuss with banks, and investors, or even potential partners, the first thing we do is to exchange agreements, that protect both sides, from theft of ideas, by the other party. I will never, ever, discuss anything with anyone, that I am planning to do, with whom, I do not have such agreements, in place: I know the value of my ideas!
The first thing is to be discrete. If you are working with others, then you must all sign agreements, in which you agree not to take the idea, to other people, outside your circle, without consent of all the partners, in the project. If you find someone resisting such a proposal, then they probably have other ideas, on your ideas, and you have to be wary.
Always investigate to see if someone else, has already done it, and if they have a patent to protect the idea, including copyrights. In today’s world of the Internet, this kind of information can be readily obtained Online.
Quite often you will find that someone else has been working on something, don’t just copy it, but approach them to see how you can work with them, for your own market. To simply take, their idea, and proceed to execute it, is at best theft,and could land you in hot water. A modern business today, no matter how small, should always be structured in a way, that enables it to be constantly innovative. I do not mind saying this; in our organisation, the fastest way to get my personal attention is to show that you are entrepreneurial and innovative.
One of the great mysteries in the world of discoveries, and inventions, is that every great idea, has more than one person working on it, even if they do not even know about each other. So, if you have an idea, don’t waste time! If you foolishly tell others, what you are planning, and then later find someone has implemented it, never say it was stolen, you gave it away!