A business idea is often quite personal. Many entrepreneurs spend a long time thinking of that unique idea, waiting for the inspiration and motivation to develop one unique thing. Some even invest in courses and programs to learn more about something in the hopes that they will find that gold nugget.
However, all the time spent thinking and creating an idea might feel wasted the very moment someone steals it (or tries to steal it, at least). Before we go in deeper, let’s first look at the situation: when somebody steals your idea, it’s a likely indicator that you have something good. Imitation is the highest form of flattery, as they say. It’s as if another person is admitting you thought of a superior idea. But this flattery won’t do you well in a business sense.
That’s why taking care of your ideas and protecting them in a legal sense is important. Below are some ideas to help you out should you find yourself in a situation like this.
Don’t React Emotionally
Firstly, your initial response might be anger or sadness. That’s fine; after all, we’re just humans. We feel a wide range of emotions, and feeling an extreme one in an extreme situation is expected. But prevent yourself from reacting emotionally. Express sadness or anger in private- never let it public, lest it will bite you back. Understand that this is the nature of entrepreneurship. People will steal your ideas, especially if it’s an excellent idea.
Gather Your Documents
As a preventive measure, you should already have documented your ideas before discussing them with people. Prepare your drafts, templates, vision boards, and whatever else you have compiled, and be ready to use them as proof. Don’t forget to create a digital copy of your documents and secure that digital backup to ensure your data will be kept intact. However, if you haven’t yet documented your ideas, go ahead and start doing it now. Abstract ideas can’t exactly be protected. That’s why setting them down into a form of writing or a strategy will help you develop and protect your idea. Talk to your lawyer so that they can give you proper advice on what to do in case your idea is stolen- they will most likely ask you to gather your details too.
Hire a Professional
If you feel like your idea was stolen, the next course of action is to hire a lawyer, especially one whose field of expertise lies in trademarks and copyrights. You can’t just function on assumption and accusation alone, regardless of how you feel about it. A professional can look at your idea and your suspected thief to assess whether there’s any copyright, patent, or trademark infringement going on. This is particularly beneficial if you’ve already filed for intellectual property over your idea.
And when the professional does find amiss, it’s time best to keep them in the loop before you proceed with what you intend to do next. Your trademark lawyer is critical at this point, as they will brief you on the course of action. By law, whenever somebody creates something original, they have the copyright to that by default. In some cases, it might be such a common and generic thing that you’ll have a hard time defending it. Your lawyer will educate you in matters like this, so the important thing is to hire one and coordinate with them.
Protecting Yourself from Creativity Theft
They say experience is the best teacher. And if your idea has been stolen before, you’d do good to make sure it never happens to you a second time. Here are a few tips:
Choose Who You Disclose Information To. This might sound like a fundamental tip, but far too often, we find ourselves telling people we know the bright idea we thought of last night. If you truly want to keep and protect your ideas, you’d best refrain from doing this.
Keep Documentation. A journal, business plan, portfolio- whatever it is, as long as you have a way to document your idea, do it. Documentation will not only help you work your ideas into something bigger, but they also act as protection. They prove that you’re the one who created it and thus have possession over it.
File a Copyright or a Trademark. Copyrights are often for artistic endeavors, like drawings, writing content, and other creative properties. A trademark is for a business’ property, as a name, logo, or slogan. It’s best to file a copyright or a trademark for your idea to protect it.
Having your idea stolen can be quite the experience. Hopefully, this short guide helped you out.