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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Good luck with your new idea.
I would get anyone you're in discussions with to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA). If you don't want to or are not yet at a point where you can afford solicitors, you should be able to search for a free template on-line.
As a Professional Futurist and owner of a young Consulting Practice, my clients are predominantly new start-ups or innovators with ground-breaking ideas but not the budget to turn to big name consulting firms to help them where they lack know-how. Generally how it works, is that I have to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) to ensure I cannot even mention on the market who my clients are (complete confidentiality) so that even the chance of someone squireling information out of me through manipulative conversations is diminished. And should I be found to have leaked client information, the client can pursue legal action against me.
Its not a flattering situation for the consultant, but it's understandable and I am fine with it. Just the same, in your case, if you engaged IT engineers to work on an unique idea and they want to earn from you, it's fair that you draw up an NDA ensuring silence, which they have to sign before commencing work on your project.
Even in employment, I have worked for organisations, where prior to signing the employment agreement, I have had to sign such NDAs to ensure privileged information from within the organisation, remains within the organisation. To ensure this is not violated, I have had to exercise convenient amnesia, meaning, the moment I step out of the work place, I have completely lost all memory of what happened or what I heard or what I saw during my work day, from the second I stepped into the work place. For example, I conveniently do not remember much of what went on during my time with a former employer. If I do, it could prove costly for me. Not the best way to secure trust, but it is a secure step. You can create such NDAs for your employees.
Most people who are competent, they don't want legal trouble. If they know they have signed a tightly drawn up NDA, they will not betray you.
Off course, where the NDA is signed and enforceable is a factor. For example, in some countries, cases can go on for decades and even after the culprit is proven guilty, if he is still alive, he could still walk free with hardly any penalty and the plaintiff is wondering what he got out of the case.
Singapore has very strong and strict laws and it is a hub for innovation. Perhaps you may want to establish a base here and pursue your project within its jurisdiction. You will have no trouble finding the suitable talent pool to support you. If you wish, I can help you set-up in the country.
Good evening Ravi. Thank you for sharing this question with us. I've read a fair amount of the other responses and all of them make sense and are really great answers to your question. I have just a little extra to add which comes to the fact of you understanding the legislation in your country or the country you want to unleash this idea. In my country for example, Brazil, you have some legal tools to prevent someone to "steal" your idea but in USA, just to make a quick comparison, those tools are different. Once you understand how you can protect your Intellectual Property accordingly, I suggest you nor only sign all documents and make all involved parts to do the same but also try to split the project among your team so none of them get to know the hole but a fraction of it. It may severe the amount of their contribution but will get you an extra protection for your project. In the end always remember that nothing is 100% certain and even with all protection you may think you have, the best way to do it is to surround yourself with trustworthy people, a strong and reliable team.
Check out techie angel investors. See an Intellectual Property lawyer for protection.
Great videos that explain this process for you on my friend and excellent patent atorney's website: http://www.hankinpatentlaw.com. Marc Hankin Patent Law.
The first thing you should do is to have a legal entity that serves as an incubator. Second, you will have an agreement with the engineers that you're going to contract with that includes not disposing this commercial secret. Third, you need to apply for a patent while you're developing your idea.
Gary's answer below is excellent...You need to share it soon with someone you can trust...So have a good business plan, mission and vision statement AND YOU CAN TALK TO A sCORE COUNSELOR FOR ADVICE...
Distribute and delegate tasks of your idea over multiple 3rd party services like a recipe so that no one entity has all of the ingredients.
The best way to protect something beyond your power or means is to give it away to people you -think- you trust and see how it comes back to you. You may find you're not the boss or that you're immediately venture funded. Today that exists easily in the Free Software Foundation, GNU and the GPL. Be sure to put up a lot of adverts or marketing material that you invented that something great
Congrats on comping up with an idea. I echo many of the recommendations below. Don't discuss anything with anyone without an NDA first and foremost. Also, go find a good IP/Patent attorney and get some advice on submitting the idea or concept for patent or trademark protection.
I'm curious as to how you could have validated this proprietary algorithm without some sort of automated support.? As I'm sure you know there is a huge difference in developing a working model in something like Excel and an "industrial" implementation. Have you considered self-development of a working model? If nothing else, it can be used by IT folks as a functional specification.