SHOULD YOU TRADEMARK, COPYRIGHT OR PATENT AN IDEA?
A lot of people ask me about protecting their idea. They worry that someone might steal their concept.
Now, personally, at the start of bringing your idea to life, I wouldn’t worry TOO much about patenting or trademarking – unless you’ve invented the water engine. And if you have, please call me as I want to invest!
It’s far too easy to spend your hard earned cash on trademarks or patents that may not even protect you – and much better (in my humble opinion) to spend money at the start on getting your idea exactly right and on preparations to have it marketed exceptionally well.
Once your item hits the shelves, competitors can always update it or twist it in some way and then release it in a slightly different form that’s similar to yours, but not necessarily legally infringe it.
MAKE A GREAT PRODUCT FIRST
So, there’s a strong argument to suggest that you should spend your money on making a really great item to start with (that your customers will adore) and spend some cash on PR to launch your item, rather than worry too much about your idea being copied – certainly at the launch stage. If it becomes a huge success after launch, first, you’ll have garnered some legal protection by simply being in the marketplace anyway, and second, you can decide whether the money you’re generating will cover the expenditure of protecting the idea as much as you can.
You can of course design register your idea – it costs under a hundred pounds: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/design/d-applying/d-apply.htm. This might be worth doing on your own if you can plough through the bureaucracy and paperwork, or to be sure you’ve filed it right, you could hire a trademark attorney or patent attorney (find both on Google) but that will cost you a lot more.
Filing a trademark costs around two hundred pounds and is often a good way of protecting a brand name just before you launch your item. I’d recommend filing a trademark yourself – but again, you may need a trademark attorney if you’re unfamiliar with the process, due to the bureaucracy of the online form (http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tm/t-os/t-os-forms/tm3-introduction.htm). I often file a trademark for my product name or brand name just before I’m about to launch a new product – when I’m sure I’ve made the product very well and I’m ready to show it to the world. Then, at least no one can copy my brand name or item name – and that can build some loyalty with customers.
But, actually, any competitor who might want to copy your idea would still just need to change the name of the idea and tweak the item slightly and there’s not much you can do. Therefore, for me, the most important factor is to ensure that your customers get a great product (with the attention to detail that only YOU can bring) and then hopefully they’ll come back to you for more items in the future.
As well as thinking about a Trademark or Copyright, there’s also a Patent to consider.
You can also patent an idea, but again I wouldn’t immediately recommend it – it takes ages and lots of money, plus you should really employ a patent attorney to ensure it’s watertight. But you may want to file an initial patent and that MIGHT protect you for one year initially. Personally, I’d spend the money on getting the item right and out into the world loudly.
When discussing your idea with other people before you’ve launched it, you can use an NDA (also known as a confidentiality agreement). This can give you some protection and show you’re serious, but it’s a little bit like saying ‘I don’t trust you’ at the start. That said, I do use them sometimes and they can show you’re taking a professional approach.
My advice in summary, is this: spend your money on two main areas – making sure your creation comes out well and that when it’s launched, people know about it.
When you’re starting out with an idea, it’s always the best plan to have a good visual created by a graphic designer or a prototype made well by you or someone else, then take either one to a company making something similar and partner with them to launch it (see here) – or even launch it yourself. Then shout loudly about it!
JUST MY OPINION – NOT LEGAL ADVICE!
Oh and all this is just my opinion by the way!
So if you were previously wondering, “Should I trademark, copyright or patent my idea?”, hopefully you have a bit more info now to help you inform your decision at each stage of your idea’s development and launch.
Please add me on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and share this article if it was useful to you…
Wishing you wonderful future success…
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