Far too many creative people are far too concerned about the integrity of their idea when they imagine presenting that idea to a manufacturer, an intellectual property attorney or even a business partner. Ideas so well protected are unlikely to prosper in the marketplace, because unless your idea is turned into a product or a service and gets distributed far and wide, it’s never going to advance beyond what it is: Just an idea.
However, if you take the proper legal and financial steps, you can improve the chances your new innovation will succeed. It’s not as complicated or as expensive as you might think. If you have an idea that you believe might qualify as a future property or business asset, here are some of the steps you should take to protect the value of your hard work.
Identify Your Idea
Before you take steps to protect your work, you need to identify how and why it qualifies as intellectual property. This kind of work is often performed by experts at companies like InventHelp.
If your idea is something that can be fixed in a tangible medium like a book, sculpture, film or dance, it may qualify for copyright protection. If it is a logo, business name, slogan or tag line, you may find it can be protected under federal trademark law.
If your idea is a mechanism, formula, process or an improvement of some kind to an existing product, you may have an idea that can be patented. The best way to know for sure what kinds of protections are available to you is to consult a qualified and experienced intellectual property attorney.
Protect Your Idea
If your new product or service qualifies for copyright protection, the good news is you get that protection the moment it is fixed in a tangible medium. For example, if you write a book, the moment you save the file or put the words down on a page, your work is automatically copyrighted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976. To obtain full protection for a copyright, it must be registered with the Library of Congress.
For creative professionals who produce a trademark, you can claim protection for your work by affixing the recognizable “TM” symbol to it when you use it in commerce. In order to claim registered trademark status, you must apply for a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Inventors who produce a new mechanism or process must apply for protection from the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Patentable inventions, unlike copyrights and trademarks, do not qualify for automatic protection. A patent application must be submitted and approved before the work is fully protected.
Write a Contract
Once your creative work is fully protected, and if your business plan involves enlisting the aid of other companies like publishers, manufacturers, distributors or advertising firms, you should ask your intellectual property attorney about contracting with those firms using something called a non-disclosure agreement, or NDA.
An NDA is an agreement between two or more parties that no proprietary information conveyed by one party to the other may be disclosed publicly. This neatly prevents the party signing the NDA from using any of an inventor’s ideas, innovations or protected works for their own benefit. Violating an NDA can carry hefty penalties and damages which can easily run to the millions of dollars depending on the value of the invention.
Entering into an NDA is often the first step in a partnership of sorts between say, an inventor and a manufacturer. It prevents the manufacturer from collecting all the details of the invention, shutting the inventor out and selling the product on their own without paying appropriate royalties.
If you decide to hire an intellectual property attorney, it would be in your best interests to place everything related to your inventions and creative works in their hands at your earliest convenience. This does two things. One, it creates credibility for you since you have a record of your work. Second, everything you entrust to your attorney is protected by attorney-client privilege, which is sort of an automatic non-disclosure agreement.
Ideas aren’t worth much. Turning ideas into something that makes money, on the other hand, is what builds wealth. Protect your work, and then make sure the world knows about it. That will lead to sales and royalties, which will make all the hard work worth it.