When you’ve come up with an amazing idea, the first thing you want to do is to tell all your friends and family about your exciting new invention, to see what they think. However, this may not be wise…unless you want someone to steal your invention! But, in order to try and make money off your invention, you need to pitch the idea to investors, potential manufacturers, distributors, etc. So, how do you protect your invention when discussing with others? First of all, you should start with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This is a simple document signed by you and the person/company you share the idea with. It states that information shared will remain confidential.
Having a feasibility study carried out will help you to decide the best route forward in terms of development and protecting your idea. If you discover your product is patentable, you could file an application straight away or develop the idea in secret before filing the tried and tested design. If it is not, you will need to consider alternatives such as Design Registration. Sometimes it may not be necessary to patent or register your design anyway. Should I patent my idea?
Here at Idea Reality, we always sign an NDA before working with anyone, to ensure that their idea is safe. We also have NDAs with all our partners too, so you can feel secure when talking to us about your product.
What is a patent?
A patent is actually government-issued and protects the rights to an invention and prevents anyone else from using it, making the product or selling the idea to others.
How do I patent my idea?
It’s important to realise that you are not able to actually patent an idea per se. You must patent a product/invention, which of course stems from an idea. You will only be able to patent your idea if your invention fits all the following criteria:
- It is something physical that can be made and can be used
- It is something completely new
- It is an invention – it cannot just be a variation on an already existing product
Only if your invention fits all these criteria, you should apply to patent your idea. They are actually quite difficult to get and expensive too, so you should be sure that patenting your idea is right for you. If you are not sure, we can also help you with this; we will answer any of your queries about whether patenting is right for you and if so, what the best way for you to go about it is.
What if I cannot patent my idea?
Many ideas/inventions cannot be patented, for a variety of reasons. In these cases, you still do not want to run the risk of people stealing your ideas, so it is important to ask for a non-disclosure agreement to be signed. Whoever you will be discussing your invention with, you should ask them to sign an NDA first. There will usually be clauses within the agreement stating what will happen if any details of the invention are disclosed to others. A standard breach of an NDA will mean that you will be able to sue for damages.
What information should be found in a non-disclosure agreement?
It is advisable to get a professional to draw up an NDA if you really want to be sure that your idea is protected. You can get standard templates online, but you want to be sure you apply the terms to your invention specifically. The main content of the agreement should include:
- What is confidential and what is not
- Exactly how the information should be handled
- How long this information should remain secret
- What happens in the event of a breach
What if I cannot patent my idea AND people won’t sign an NDA?
Many people get suspicious when someone refuses to sign a NDA, but there are various reasons why someone will not sign. You could suggest signing a simpler and less-detailed confidentiality agreement instead. However, we at Idea Reality suggest that any company which does refuse to sign a NDA is somewhat dubious, as most reliable companies would always be willing to sign without an issue.
If they are not willing to sign any paperwork, it doesn’t mean that you should not do business with them altogether, but instead, perhaps in some cases you could just disclose a basic form of the idea and not specifics. Whet their appetite, and then let them know that if they want more information, they need to sign on the dotted line!
Visit the Intellectual Property Office website for further guidance or speak with an Intellectual Property legal advisor.
This is an informative article only. The above is the opinion of Idea Reality Ltd and is not to be used without proper professional advice taking into account individual project circumstances