Ideas rule the world and that is why you must do everything in your power to ensure that you protect any idea that is yours. You might not be one-hundred per cent sure that it might be marketable or that it could be of value to others. This is true of any great idea. The best thing you can do for your startup idea is to protect it while it is still in its developmental stage.
It is very risky to think that talking to someone about your idea is harmless. There is nothing new under the sun. People who are smart are constantly listening to others speak and hoping they say something that will spark an idea. So be smarter, protect your idea. These are some of the simple ways you can protect your startup idea…
- Document every single detail about your startup idea. This is one of the easiest ways you can have evidence to back up your claims of ownership. You could make use of a journal. The downside of using a journal is that it could get damaged or lost. Alternatively, you can make use of a custom email address of a registered domain website. You can register a website with your full name and create an email address where you can update all your startup ideas thereby writing an email and sending it to the same email address or just leaving it in the drafts area. Avoid using free emailing platforms like Gmail or Yahoo mail because it infringes on the privacy of the content you share there. Another option is using word document in your personal computer and locking the document with a very strong password. Using either of these methods is best for startup ideas that you are still developing.
- If you need to discuss an idea with someone, possibly a prospective investor or you want to bring in the expertise of someone else to join you in actualizing the startup idea, then you should consider getting them to sign a non-disclosure agreement. A non-disclosure agreement is a legal contract that binds two or more persons in a mutual agreement to keep shared knowledge, materials or information confidential to only those concerned in the agreement. In the case where concerned persons break that confidentiality, others that signed the agreement can sue legally. For investors, you might have to be very careful with getting them to sign a non-disclosure agreement depending on the kind of information you are sharing. Most investors are interested in the ROI (returns on investment) rather than the specifics. Another legal move you can make is getting your team members or staff to sign a non-compete agreement which prevents them from working for a similar business or going to start up a similar business. For one-off services that you might require for the startup idea, get such hired persons to sign a work-for-hire agreement.
- If you are deciding to pitch your idea to get a grant or secure interest of an investor or if you want to release a model or demo of the idea that people can use temporarily (if you want to test market response or give people free trial) consider trademarking it, copyrighting it, patenting it and other forms of intellectual property filling options in Nigeria. In this case, just the mere idea cannot be copyrighted or trademarked. You need to have developed the idea to a point where it something tangible.
- Learn to reveal only what is necessary for investors, business pitches judges or consumers (selected for market test) need to know, nothing more. Do not be tempted to show off your startup idea. You could end up spilling important details that they should not be aware of. Also, if attending business pitches avoid spilling important details about startup idea to other participants. It is also important to carry out proper research on any business pitching contest to be sure that it is legit.