The idea is the heart of the invention. You, the inventor, then must be extremely careful about sharing your novel idea with other people, even with people who can provide assistance to take it from an abstract idea to a real product (i.e., prototype). You should be particularly careful when you haven’t submit your patent application for it yet.
Fortunately, there are ways to talk about your non-patented invention and protect it from being stolen by others.
Learn the Law
You have to learn the law that applies to patents even before you think about discussing your ideas with every Tom, Dick and Harry who cares to listen. You don’t have to go to law school to understand the patent laws but you should strive to learn the basics, such as the types of disclosures that you can and cannot make while still protecting your idea.
You may want to present your idea to a group of angel investors. You may also put it to beta testing so as to test it marketability and profitability. You may want to write a white paper about it. Regardless of what you want to do about your idea, you have to learn the law.
Have a Confidentiality Agreement
Also known as a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), a confidentiality makes it clear – and in writing, too, for good measure – between both parties that your invention should be treated as confidential information. As such, the third parties with the privilege to know about it must not disclose or release any information about it to others without your express permission. This is a good idea if you’re talking about it to potential investors, partners, and/or vendors.
But remember that an NDA isn’t acceptable to everybody, especially where large investment firms and corporations are concerned. Indeed, you may even be asked to sign an agreement wherein you agree that your idea isn’t a secret at all so the organization has legal protection from liability!
Avoid Online Sharing
If you’re the type who likes to share nearly everything about your life online, then you should start cutting back if you have a brilliant idea that can qualify for a patent. When you post your ideas online, whether it’s on your website or on a social media site, you’re exposing yourself to two threats.
First, your idea may be stolen by your connections – or by the friends of your friends up to the sixth degree – and then run with it. You may have come up with the novel idea and somebody else profited from or was recognized for it.
Second, you’re essentially giving the social media sites where your ideas were posted the right to use it anyway they want. Read Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, particularly on the topic of intellectual property, and you will understand.
The best thing to do: File a provisional patent for your invention!