Protect your smart idea

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In difficult financial climates, the businesses that flourish are those that are not afraid to diversify the products or services that they offer to their clients or customers.

Whether it is offering a new product to target a lower income segment of the market, or a Smartphone App to allow clients to access services remotely, businesses are starting to see the benefits of new and inventive ways to meet the needs of consumers in a simple and cost effective way.

Before you put your great new idea in motion however, it is important to consider how you can protect that idea before it is snapped up by the first person you ask to help you launch it. An idea will constitute Intellectual Property, which is a very important asset of your business, and needs to be protected.

What follows are five tips to protect your Intellectual Property:

  • Put a dollar value on it – You should make an assessment of what Intellectual Property is crucial to your business and identify its worth. A tangible value will help you attract potential investors and get the true worth of your business in any future sale.
  • Register it – Whilst you will generally have remedies available at common law, the only way to be certain that your Intellectual Property is protected is to register it as a Patent, Trademark, Design, or Plant Breeder’s Right. You can visit IP Australia’s website for more information on what Intellectual Property you can register in Australia.
  • Keep it Confidential – More and more of my clients are starting appreciate the need to put in place a Confidentiality Agreement (or “Non-disclosure” Agreement) between their potential investors, advisors or contractors so that their idea can’t be taken and used in competition with them.

A Confidentiality Agreement is relatively inexpensive to prepare and can normally be used for multiple persons that you may reveal your idea to (or “Confidants”), by simply inserting each person’s details into the agreement and having them sign it before the idea is disclosed.

It also serves the purpose of being an upfront indicator to the Confidant that you take the protection of your intellectual property seriously and are not afraid to take legal steps to protect it.

  • Use it wisely – Your Intellectual Property can be bought or sold just like any other business asset. In some cases it can be more effective from an asset protection perspective to license your Intellectual Property to your business from a service entity. You should speak to a Legal Practitioner to identify the best option for your business.

You also need to use your Intellectual Property prominently and consistently to ensure that if an argument arises as to who was using a particular brand first, or who consumer’s see as having a greater association with a particular brand, you can provide tangible evidence in support of your claim.

  • Look out for it – Just because your Intellectual Property is registered or subject to a Confidentiality Agreement, doesn’t mean it can’t be copied unlawfully. Your rights won’t enforce themselves and need to be rigorously defended, in Court if necessary, where your idea has been stolen.

If you have any questions regarding intellectual property and asset protection, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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