Phoenix Business Journal February 2014–
What are your best tips for local entrepreneurs to protect their ideas? Keep your ideas secret until you can protect them. A client told a “friend” about his great new product name, and before he could meet with me 12 hours later, the “friend” purchased the URL’s for those great names. He’s no longer a friend.
File applications to protect your new ideas and names as soon as possible. Words and designs come into fashion, and there is competition at the trademark office for who filed first. For example, a local business owner asked me to file on a new name; a quick check of the trademark office records indicated that a global corporation, Henkel, filed a few days earlier, fortunately for a totally different product. We both got our trademarks.
A recent change in the patent law gives the first person to file a patent application a very big advantage. Your one-year grace period to test the product in the marketplace is gone. In fact, the right to get a patent is obliterated once you have sold that product or service.
When should you share your ideas with potential investors? Ideally, you should talk to investors after you have developed a firm and detailed idea of the product or service you want to sell. Investors want to know not only the new and different features of your product, but also why those features will influence the target market to purchase. You should persuade the investor to sign a confidentiality agreement. Many investors refuse to sign a confidentiality agreement, so it is necessary to file a patent application before talking to them. We have recently streamlined and adapted the patent application for timely and economical filing and to better appeal to investors.
What are the consequence individuals face when they fail to protect their ideas? Basically, an individual may work extremely hard and invest a lot of personal and family money to launch a product, but before it turns a profit, the product is knocked off and there is no payoff for all the hard work and investment. That is why one of the first questions on investor programs is: “Do you have a patent?” With a quality patent, you can charge more money and profit from your investment of time, effort and capital.