You have identified a need in the business world and have an idea to fill that need. You are proud of it and rightly so. You have likely spent months or years thinking about it and you have a clear idea about how it will impact the world.
This is your idea; your baby; your creative genius.
Of course it is natural that you want to protect it. But do you really need to, or are you overestimating the value of your idea to others? Here are some things to consider.
Ideas do not travel well, generally
The idea you have is yours. In every way, you have considered and cashed out this plan for a business. But even if you were to tell someone every last little detail of your idea and implementation plan, they would not be able to transform it into reality the way you would. This is the beauty of creativity. Many businesses run on the same basic “idea”; car companies, bike manufacturers even dog apparel. But what is more important is HOW the idea is brought forth into the business world.
You can protect yourself legally
Aside from the tedious path of getting a patent, you can protect your ideas for a lot less money. You will have to hire people, talk to manufacturers or service providers who are going to have to hear about your idea in detail.
If you are truly concerned about losing control of your idea, you have relatively inexpensive legal options, all of which should be overseen by a competent attorney.
(1) Non-disclosure agreement (NDA): This is a document that essentially states that no information you share with an employee or business partner can be disclosed to a third party. Be sure there is no expiration date and you are protected for a long time!
(2) Non-compete agreement: Ask workers who help you to sign a non-compete agreement. This will prevent them from leaving and starting a competing business within an agreed upon radius.
(3) Work-for-hire agreement: When you hire people to work on your idea, they will inevitably make improvements. This agreement establishes that you own such improvements. If you proceed with a patent, things change a little bit as far as credit given to the people who made improvement, but they will have no rights to your idea.
Collaboration benefits everyone
With very few exceptions, it is incredibly difficult to fully think through an idea and get a feel for its market viability without talking to others. Discussing your idea (without sharing the intimate details of implementation) will only help you in the long run. Diversity is something that our global economy caters to. Whatever your idea, if it cannot adapt to the needs of diverse peoples all over the world, it is not going to be of much use to anyone.
You are just one brain in a sea of six billion; your idea will only get better and have a higher chance of success by talking about it with others.
Entrepreneurs need to protect themselves, but they also need to trust others enough to reach out to others for their feedback and help. For the most part, people who hear your idea are not nearly as excited about it as you are. Many more will not even see that it is potentially groundbreaking. So, while you need to be careful, you also need to understand that what seems so clear to its creator (that’s you!), may just be a lot of muddy water to others.