Have an idea for a new product? Here are two things you need to do to protect it.
First things first, if this is going to be the best-selling product you think it might be, you’ll want to begin protecting your idea right from the start. Imagine going through the excitement and excruciatingly hard work of creating a product only to have another entity steal your idea and take it to market first! Yes, of course, you can seek a patent for protection, but often you will first need time to explore a lot of important decisions before you write that first retainer check to a patent attorney. Settling on which materials you’ll use and which features you should focus on will likely involve consulting experts, surveying friends and perhaps chatting with consumer groups. Not to worry, there are a few things you can do to protect your initial idea during this early stage of development.
Let’s start with a good old NDA.
Back when I started work on my first Lilly Brush product, I asked a dear friend, one of the smartest business women I know, for her thoughts. “Hold on,” she said, looking away from the product I held before her. “Do you have a Non-Disclosure Agreement for me to sign?” I was stunned as I consider her a 100% trustworthy pal, but she also happens to work as a lawyer for one of the “Sharks” on ABC’s top-rated series Shark Tank, and as she explained, an NDA is a simple way of protecting us both should someone else in her orbit come up with a similar product before my patent is filed.
Hopefully, this helps you to think of your NDA as a courtesy rather than a trust issue, so you won’t ever be shy about asking those you seek counsel from to sign it. Believe me, knowing you have it on file will help you and your patent attorney sleep at night! Click here for a very simple NDA from Rocket Lawyer.
Your very, very important new friend, the Inventor’s Notebook.
This is critical. I’ll explain why in a minute, but if you have not been keeping a carefully formatted inventor’s notebook from the moment you started to develop your product idea, stop everything (seriously) and get yourself one here.
I like these particular notebooks because they supply everything you need to keep a proper log of your inventing activities, and yes indeed, there is a right way, and a wrong way, to do it!
Why (and how) to keep an Inventor’s Notebook.
The United States recognizes new ideas on a first-to-invent basis rather than the first-to-file basis utilized by most other countries. All this means is that, in the event that two very similar inventions are filed at or near the same time, the USPTO will have to decide who has priority, or proof of novelty, based on who can convince them that they conceived of the idea first. A properly kept Inventor’s Notebook acts as a time stamp for a period up to, but not exceeding, one year before date of filing. For thorough instructions on how to keep your own Inventor’s Notebook, please take a moment to read this fantastic article written by the folks at Maday Patent Law, PLLC.
Next Month: How to Make a Prototype, Bootstrap Style!
Founder, Elsie Hamilton
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