• October 2018
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How do start-up founders protect their idea from being stolen by early employees/friends? Are there any legal protections? Or is the only protection simply that the founder must have something essential to contribute aside from the idea?

Generally, product ideas are not protectable by patent law. You may, however be able to patent a specific way of doing business, with a utility patent. A utility patent covers a new and useful: process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement of these. It’s possible to file a provisional patent on your own; however, if your product/platform/app changes, you would incur additional legal fees because you’d have to change the patent application.

Patents can offer tech startups many benefits, assuming you have something patentable. They attract investors and can deter competitors. A startup with patent protection is more valuable to companies interested in forming a joint venture or making an acquisition as well. Further, a startup has the ability to license its patent, providing a business another way of generating funding while expanding its market simultaneously. The problem is that you can’t patent an idea; you need something tangible.

If you prefer to save some money, confidentiality agreements and trade secret protection may work just as well as costly patent registration, especially when combined with exceptional innovation design and speed. All employees, board members and advisors should be required to sign agreements obligating them to assign all business-related IP to the startup. You will also want to extend IP protection through agreements with non-employees, including vendors, outsourced designers, consultants, engineers, and even customers.

You should visit us at LawTrades to fully understand your IP rights. We’re a legal platform that connects top attorneys w/ entrepreneurs. Our pricing is up to 60% less than traditional law firm pricing and we offer free consultations. Good luck!

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