How can I bring on the help I need to start my business while protecting my idea?

I have an idea which needs to be developed by smart and trusted IT engineers using algorithms. I have researched my idea in depth and believe it could end up being a huge business enterprise. How do I get the help I need while protecting my idea?

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8

Hi Ravi,

Congratulations on coming up with that elusive idea and I am sure you will receive a lot of suggestions and comments on how to move forward with that burning question.

In my experience, you cannot "fully" protect an idea without having an architectural concept or prototype. Before you commit to spending money on expensive legal fees, ensure that you have a product/service prototype together with the architectural process or simply put, a Minimum Viable Product. Once you have this, you can then patent the concept, modelling and process architecture.

After all, if you intend to seek investment, you will need to demonstrate how the idea works as a business and in the case of test marketing, a minimum viable product will enable you to gauge the traction from potential customers who will be able to touch, feel, experience and comment on it - invaluable information and data for models and process development as well as value propositioning.

But here's what I'd suggest. Find someone "a person" with the skills and technical ability that can help you build a working prototype and here's why...!

You will have to trust someone at some point otherwise you will not realise your idea, unless of course you can deliver a prototype yourself which is not the case at present. I would also offer them some equity in exchange for their services either as a co-founder or in another capacity you both feel comfortable with. This will give anyone an extra incentive to protect your "business" idea as they have a vested interest.

This allows you to tie them in with patent ownership clauses and non disclosures in any agreements or contracts. This route will also enable you to develop a "working" model that can be used for test marketing. It is only from this point that I'd suggest patenting your "prototype", not the "idea", which, in any case, is not a tangible product or service.

I don't know of any investors that invest their money without seeing a working model and certainly, none will sign an NDA.

Final thoughts...I hope your idea is one that does more than become a hugely profitable enterprise, but one that offers solution based services or products.

Hope this helps. Feel free to connect if I can be of further help.

Good luck and I wish you success.

6

Ravi, I suggest you may want work with a patent attorney to help you prepare and file your application in the countries in which you wish to seek patent protection for your idea. Prior to filing, do not disclose your idea to anyone without an executed confidentiality or nondisclosure agreement in place. Failure to have a confidentiality agreement in place could result in loss of patent rights.
Kathleen Lynch

5

Ravi: First, good luck on the development. I suggest that you talk to a very competent IP lawyer about your internal documentation, then periodic reporting to the attorney so that it can be determined when to begin filing for patents/copyrights. Next, sound employment contracts, non-compete agreements and confidentiality agreements should become part of your employment package. If you are really paranoid, divide your development into independent segments which will be later consolidated (only by you or a very trusted senior engineer) to achieve the functional system. Protect the code so that no employee will be able to assemble a functional system independently. Your IP protection should be built sequentially so that the wall gets too high to climb. Finally, test as you progress to continue to confirm your original market assumptions.

Excellent advice, especially the part about decomposing an application into separate modules and keeping knowledge of its assembly to yourself.

Gary, Thanks for the excellent advice but unfortunately I am not in a financial position to engage a lawyer.

5

I disagree with anyone that recommends getting an IP Lawyer. I've read so many articles from tech founders and their number one regret was spending money on IP. There were a few reasons why, one was that it cost too much money. Second, your IP will constantly change and you'll find yourself with a product that's not protected after a few iterations.

You're going to face a few hurdles. You're not a tech guy so you have to explain every detail to a 3rd party. Nothing is "magic", meaning if you don't tell them, then it won't be built properly. Second, since you are non-tech the odds that your idea is original is very low. I've rarely seen something thats "new" or hasn't been done. They usually have already failed in the market, or you just didn't do enough research.

Everybody is going to recommend NDA and Non-Compete contracts. The truth is it's going to be pretty tough to get people to sign these. It pretty ties their hands behind their back and doesn't allow them to work on other projects without potential legal issues.

With that being said. It takes too much effort to steal your idea, you should be more worried about getting off the ground, cost, burn rate, retention and so on. If you want to keep your algorithm protected, then don't let too many people work on it and those who do sign a reasonable NDA.

One last thing, DON'T OUTSOURCE. Unless your contract says otherwise all code belongs to the contractor. Second, your contract will be pretty much impossible to reinforce if you outsource to India, China and so on.

4

https://www.ycombinator.com/apply/ or similar acceleratorswill help you with IP.

You can tell people what it does but not how you will do it, Get a signed NDA be sure to include the words TRADE SECRETS better protection than a patent.

Roy, Good idea but I am sure there are clever people who will figure out "how to do" besides I cannot even approach an IP authority without a road map.

Dear RAVI, You cannot patent an idea only a process or an actual device.
You can trademark copyright and get provisional patents all at low cost. In your communications make sure you insist on non disclosure of your trade secrets as part of the e-mail letter etc.
This should be at the top of the document before any other content EG:
This document contains proprietary and confidential information. All data submitted to the recipient is provided in reliance upon its consent not to use or disclose any information contained herein except in the context of its business dealings with RAVI

Hi Roy,
That sounds very good. Thank you so much,

4

As far as I know the Indian IP and Patents law, Idea can not be patented. Algorithms also can not be patented. However, you can get copyright on the software/code which has the algorithm. As I understand, you need smart and trusted IT engineers to work on this. I suggest the followings
1) Start your own company, recruit IT engineers and execute the project.
2) Approach an incubation center , submit your proposal and execute this from there.
3) Approach a software development company, get NDA signed and execute the project.

4

Typically you have folks sign a non-disclosure form which can protect you. You can go onto any legal site and find samples of the type that fits your need. Also I have had some success hiring interns from colleges that are looking to gain the experience and it could be free to you in some cases.

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