A lot of people are concerned about their ideas being stolen should they pitch to investors or Companies who might actually help them to realize those ideas or make money off of them.
There are only three ways to protect ideas legally in the U.S. : patents, trademarks and copyrights.
A patent applies to a specific product design; a trademark applies to a name, phrase or symbol; and a copyright applies to a written document.
All three methods have limitations and can be very expensive, there's no one perfect way to protect an idea. Besides, companies or investors really don't pay for an idea, patent or trademark. They pay for the work that's done to get an idea to a marketable state. That's the "traction".
The common distrust offend many investors or companies who for the most part are perfectly trustworthy people. But the concerns and feelings are real, and understandable.
A solution is often to have a very good pitch that doesn't disclose much of your idea. But it's not easy to come up with such a good pitch if you can't share it and have feedback.
Here's one way to prepare your idea for a great pitch while protecting them:
- Prepare an elevator pitch that explains your idea without disclosing everything. This should be possible to do simply (eg. "this concept is going to help people customize the design and style of their jeans"). Repeat until you find the right pitch.
- Use www.symbyoz.com to save your idea. Our Terms of Services include a Non Disclosure Agreement for all members who share confidential information to protect your private content. NDA are the best way to protect your ideas and secrets from people you are sharing confidential information with. Symbyoz also makes it easy to prove that an idea originated from you once you've saved it.
- Do your research and flesh out your idea. Save tentative pitches, bounce them off your friends or only people you trust and see what they think/suggest. Craft and fine tune.
- Once your pitch and ideas are good, find people who can help you take the idea from paper to prototype or can give credentials, support and validation to your idea. Share your pitch publicly on Symbyoz. If you get a growing interest from people you want to work with, then share your whole idea then (still under NDA when inside Symbyoz).
- If you really need further legal protection, find a patent attorney and collaborate to file a patent. On Symbyoz you can share files, designs or other documents you need to fill your patent application.
- When you have enough traction (a working prototype, a patent, or enough support from a lot of people) you can make your idea public, contact companies or investors that might be interested (or at that point, they might even contact you themselves) and seal the deal.