When you invent something, you will likely want to license it to an individual or business. This is one way many inventors make money. The problem with this strategy is it puts your invention at risk. In order to market your invention, you have to give details about what it can do and how it is made. This type of information can be used by the individual or organization to replicate your invention. What can you do to make money off of your invention while still protecting it?
Get a Patent
Not all inventions are patentable, but if yours is, you should apply for a patent as soon as possible. Even the status of “patent pending” is enough to deter many thieves. You can easily learn more about the patent application process by contacting the United States Patent and Trademark Office with any of your questions.
A patent protects your inventions because it stops others from making, selling or using and invention similar to yours. Only an inventor or the deceased inventor’s legal representative can apply for a patent. The protection comes through legal actions you can take against anyone who may be misusing your invention.
Implement Nondisclosure Agreement
A nondisclosure agreement is a great path to take if your invention is not patentable. An NDA, sometimes referred to as a nondisclosure agreement or confidentiality agreement, has many critical portions. Once it is signed, if a customer breaks the agreement, you will be able to sue her or him to recover damages. An NDA should:
- Expressly explain what is and is not confidential.
- Go over the obligations each part has to keep the information a secret.
- Explain how the customer can talk with a third-party who is not expressly involved in the agreement.
- Specify the length of the agreement.
- Discuss what will happen should either party breach the agreement.
If you cannot get a patent, consider having your customers sign an NDA.
Investigate Customer’s Reputation
Unfortunately, not all customers will be willing to sign an NDA because it is so restrictive. Thankfully, an NDA is not the only way you can protect your invention should it not be patentable. Before you share information about your invention, you should gather information related to the reputation of the customer. His reputation will tell you whether or not discussing your invention without an NDA makes business sense. If the customer has a long history of litigation, it may be risky to share information about your invention.
Build Confidential Business Relationship
Another option you have is to create a confidential business relationship. This is a much less formal version of an NDA. It’s not a written agreement, but it does give you claim to a confidential relationship if certain criteria is met.
- If the customer contacts you rather than you contacting him, you can claim a confidential relationship.
- If you informed the customer the use of your invention would be a business proposition requiring payment, you preserve your confidential rights.
- If you request the information you share be kept a secret when you share it, you can claim a confidential relationship.
- If the information you are sharing could be classified as a trade secret, your rights are preserved.
If your relationship fits the above guidelines, you are able to claim you had a confidential business relationship in the future.
Finally, you can protect yourself by only sharing basic information about your invention. If your product is not patentable, the customer won’t sign an NDA, the customer’s background is questionable and you made first contact, you can still protect your invention. Simply share the basic information and no more to protect your invention from being stolen.
Realistically, it is always a good idea to avoid sharing information that is extremely delicate. Even with an NDA, there is still a possibility of misuse. What an NDA does is allow you to sue someone who breaks your agreement, but that doesn’t undo the misuse of your invention. Protect your creation by only sharing basic information.
The content on our website is only meant to provide general information and is not legal advice. We make our best efforts to make sure the information is accurate, but we cannot guarantee it. Do not rely on the content as legal advice. For assistance with legal problems or for a legal inquiry please contact you attorney.