After you have researched whether or not your business name or idea is being used by anyone else, see How to Research Your Business Name and How to Research Your Business Idea, it is important to take measures to protect it appropriately.
If the idea is an invention, or improvement to an existing one, that is useful, novel, non-obvious, adequately described or enabled, and claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms, then it may be patentable, and you should speak with an attorney right a way to discuss the patent application process. You may also consider applying for a provisional patent, which can protect your idea for the first twelve months and allow you to use the phrase “Patent Pending.”
If the idea is of the artistic or creative variety such as a painting, novel, or movie, then you should sit down with an attorney to discuss whether or not it is protected by copyright and whether or not it is a good idea to have the copyright registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. This is usually a straightforward process that can be done electronically.
If your idea is a name, slogan, symbol, sound, or other identifier for your business or its goods and services, then it may be protectable as a trademark. Trademark protections can exist under common law, state law, or federal law, so you should be sure to discuss what is most appropriate and cost-effective for your business with an attorney. Federal trademarks can be especially difficult and expensive to obtain and keep, so this will require some careful deliberation. You may also need to consider whether or not your business needs to be formed a particular way or if a trade name should be filed in order to help protect the name or aspects of the business idea.
If you are thinking about discussing or pitching your idea to others, you should seriously evaluate whether a Non-Disclosure Agreement or other form of confidentiality protection is suitable. These can help protect you from having your idea copied by those you discuss it with, but it can be a delicate issue to raise in front of friends, family, or potential business partners.
Remember that if you do not protect yourself, you could wind up finding yourself in a lengthy and costly court battle to stop someone from profiting off of your idea, and you still might lose. This business idea could be the livelihood of you and your family, so why risk losing it? Do not let this happen to you.
If you have questions about or need help with protecting your business name or idea, contact the Law Office of E.C. Lewis PC, home of your Denver Business Lawyer, Elizabeth Lewis, 720-258-6647 or email her at Elizabeth.Lewis@eclewis.com.