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How to Avoid the Stealing of Your Ideas

Legally Branded Podcast – How to Avoid the Stealing of Your Ideas

October 23, 2018

Pablo Picasso reportedly once said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” This is true not only in art. Thieves and copycats are as rife in business as in every walk of life. If so, how can you protect your ideas from getting copied or stolen? What are the steps you need to take to protect them?

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Topics Discussed in this Episode:

  • How to protect ideas against theft by competitors and others
  • The importance of confidentiality
  • How the patent system works
  • The rationale behind IP
  • When to use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA)
  • The case of Microsoft’s Tablet PC versus Apple’s iPad
  • How to maintain your competitive advantage
  • The use of confidentiality to keep methodologies and recipes a secret


Key Takeaways:

  • Keeping ideas secret is fundamental to protecting them. And in business, you need to be very, very aware of this. And it’s the same the world over.
  • Confidentiality is one of the core three IP rights, and it’s a very important way in which ideas, systems, processes, and databases are protected.
  • Every great innovation began simply as an idea in someone’s head, and the patent system will only grant a patent on innovations that are not in the public domain.
  • The trade-off that the state gives us for revealing our ideas is a monopoly right, so keeping them secret initially is a vital way of protecting ideas.
  • The state is constantly doing this balancing act. The rights that they give have to be strong enough to encourage the creation of intellectual goods and divulging of information in return for a patent, but not so strong as to stifle creativity or prevent the wider use of those ideas.
  • If you’re coming up with something innovative, expect others to jump on the bandwagon and copy.
  • Copyright does not protect the underlying ideas. It only protects the way you express them.
  • The copying of ideas may pose a serious threat to your business. The more crucial your idea, the more steps you should probably take to protect it.
  • It’s how an idea is implemented rather than the idea itself that determines how well it’s received in the market.


Action Steps:

  • Develop the skill of knowing what to reveal, how much to reveal, and what to keep confidential about your ideas.
  • Keep your idea a secret if you think it might potentially be patentable. If information about it leaks out to the public domain, it is no longer protected.
  • When you have new ideas, carefully weigh up who you’re going to disclose them to and how. That’s how you manage the bloody world of competition.
  • There are huge commercial advantages to being first to market, but you need to constantly improve and refine your offering if you’re to maintain that advantage. Keep staying ahead of your competitors. Even though they copy you, make it so that you’ve already moved on and actually improved the product and learned new insights.
  • Some ideas need to be launched and developed very fast because that’s just their nature. If you’ve got a good idea that’s going to attract copycats, then be ready to really push forward with it very quickly. Go to market, promote it, gain traction, make sure that the proposition is properly developed and implemented before launch, recruit beta customers to test it, and get feedback.
  • Try to stay objective when weighing up your competition. It’s important not to get overly paranoid about what you’ve got. Temper your fears with a large dose of realism.
  • Bear in mind that copyright does not protect the underlying ideas. Don’t get a false sense of security from the fact that you’re going to have copyright if you’ve published your ideas.
  • If you decide that your idea needs to be kept a secret either for a while or forever, then act accordingly and create proper boundaries around it, using the right sort of agreements with anyone you work with. You need to think it through very carefully and probably get advice.


Shireen said:

“If an idea is before its time, either don’t rush in if doing so will tip off competitors… or launch and keep improving the product — constantly improving. You just can’t stay static.”

“For many ideas, even if a competitor takes inspiration, you will still offer something unique to potential customers, something that only you can bring to the table… But on the other hand, don’t assume you’re unique if you’re not.” 

Thank you for listening!

If you want to start, grow or exit a business and manage the risks and opportunities correctly, sign up to the Legally Branded Academy where you can learn the essential actions to protect your IP and get a wealth of resources.

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