PROTECTING INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Trademarks, Patents and copyrights for your idea may ultimately protect you to a degree but they can be expensive and the government agencies granting them have no enforcement arm so you must discover a violation yourself, retain a lawyer, bring a court proceeding against a violator and then hope to recover your costs and a reasonable settlement if you win.
Therefore, most of my clients initially use non-disclosure agreements (NDA’s) in dealing with other companies. Teaming is a practical fact of life in pursuing an ultimate market for your product or service.
You can download a FREE NDA from the “References” Box Net Cube at the right margin of the site I maintain as an extension of my volunteer work: https://www.smalltofeds.com/2013/06/practical-intellectual-property.html
Fill in the blanks as appropriate for a given exchange with outside individuals and companies. Before you meet to disclose details with a potential teaming company or investor, for instance, ask them to sign the document with you up front, put a serial number on it and reference the serial number and the agreement and date on any written materials you give to them.
After the meeting draft a short letter, documenting the minutes of the meeting, what was discussed and stating that the verbal disclosures and materials in the meeting are subject to the agreement and reference the agreement by number and date. Put an acknowledgment line on the letter and ask them to return a signed copy to you. This confirms their receipt of your proprietary information and their agreement to protect it in accordance with the NDA.
There are certain exceptions with regard to individuals or companies you may be dealing with on investing where you may not choose to use an NDA. Some Angel and Capital Investors are sensitive about being asked to sign them. You will have to trade their objections off against the value they represent to your company and conduct your risk analysis on a case-by-case basis.
The best intellectual property protections are well understood, practical, teaming relationships among partners, employees, industry and government. All sides in such relationships lose if disclosure or violations occur.