Your business ideas are not something that is tangible
So much about starting a new business is about practicalities. You have to source your products, the services that will allow you to go into business, perhaps even premises if you’re starting big. All of these are necessary, but there is one key component in the midst of all this practical thinking that has a tendency to get overlooked.
Your business ideas are not something that is tangible. You can’t pull them from your mind, hold them up for everyone to see. As a result, you can quickly fall into the trap of not seeing them as an integral part of your business. They’re just the thing that goes behind the actual mechanics, not something for you to spend much time to consider beyond putting them into action. Thoughts, people mistakenly assume, are the beginning that you launch from and nothing more.If you don’t protect your business ideas, then you don’t have a business.Click To Tweet
In actuality, this mistake is potentially fatal to your business. It’s a far bigger threat even than your costs running out of control, because if you don’t protect your business ideas, then you don’t have a business. Businesses are run off ideas. Your ideas aren’t just the aspect that allows you to go into business: they are your business. The rest – the practicalities, the contracts, the negotiations, the harsh truths, the customers, the branding – are just the physical manifestation of your ideas. What you have thought and the plans you have; those are the true foundation of your business.
Protecting your ideas should be the first thing at the top of your startup to-do list. There’s no point having a great idea if you don’t protect it. You need to be on top of your intellectual property – without it, you open yourself up to both accusations of copying and being copied yourself.
A trademark might seem like an unnecessary expense at startup time, when you’re already overwhelmed with costs that seem to be spiraling out of control. However, let’s imagine if you have hit on the next big idea, the catchy phrase, the innovative product. Someone else, ruthless and business-minded, decides they want to do it for themselves and files a trademark – for your idea. All of a sudden, you find yourself having to bring in the likes of a litigation lawyer from IRB Law, running up costs by the day as you try to prove that your concept is your own. It can happen; it does happen.
Trademark your company name. Furthermore, record everything you do, so in the event of an argument about ideas, you have a backup for how long your plans have been in motion.
At times, two people in completely separate spheres have the exact same idea. There are various cultural reasons for it; it’s why we get two movies about an Earth-ending asteroid (Deep Impact and Armageddon, for example) very close to one another. It can happen for honest reasons, completely different from one another and spontaneous.
So you might find yourself accused of copying an idea you had no notion you were copying. It’s innocent; you thought your idea was your own, and you would never offend the intellectual property of another. Again: it can and does happen.
To prevent against this, run as much research as you possibly can to try and make sure what you have – your idea, your product, even your logo – is as unique as it can be. If you find another business doing something you wanted to do, back away and come up with something new. It’ll encourage you to be creative with your solutions, even if it is inconvenient at the time.