Legal Tips Every Small Business Owner Should Know About Intellectual Property

When you're launching a new business venture, it's tempting to tell everyone you know about your awesome idea. Unfortunately, revealing too much about your ideas can put your concepts at risk of theft by either a competitor or an enterprising prospective investor. Here are a few tips to help you protect your business interests even if you're seeking financing to build your start-up.

Choose Your Words with Care

One of the hardest things about trying to grow a new business is researching your market and finding investors without disclosing potentially sensitive information about your product or service concept. Don't disclose any more details than necessary about your product design. Think about the role of the person you're talking to when you decide what to share. If he or she doesn't need to know something or it isn't relevant to their role, think twice about volunteering it.

File for Provisional Patents

Even if you aren't ready to fully patent your product ideas, you should file for a provisional patent. This protects your product concepts from theft by giving you legal recourse if someone tries to claim your design as their own. A provisional patent is a cost-effective alternative for immediate protection as compared to the full, lengthy patent application.

A provisional patent gives you only short-term protection, so you'll want to make sure that you start gathering information for the full patent protection shortly thereafter. When the provisional patent is issued, you'll be told when the agreement expires so that you can have your full patent application filed in time.

Request a Signed Non-Disclosure Agreement

It's hard to withhold all of the crucial product details if you're looking for investors. In that case, think about requesting a non-disclosure agreement from anyone that you share the information with. That way, you can be more forthcoming with information about your market research and product design. In many cases, this honesty will make the difference between landing a potential investor or having to finance the launch on your own.

If you are going to ask for a non-disclosure agreement, though, make sure you've had it reviewed by an attorney, maybe from a place like McFarland & Masters LLC. For businesses that are just starting out, you may even be able to consult a local legal services clinic and have the agreement evaluated at a discount.

Protecting your company's intellectual property and concepts is more difficult than you might think. Your best defense against this type of risk is to have a solid, reliable legal team and the necessary contracts to help you preserve the integrity of your information.