Protecting your Business Idea

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How much is a business idea worth to you?  Well, for one 19 year old Harvard dropout named Mark Zuckerberg, a small idea turned into a company with a market cap in excess of USD 220 billion 10 years later, making him the youngest billionaire in the world.

Common Mistakes

Entrepreneurs often tend to underestimate the value of an original business idea.  Great ideas often emerge from the discussion of basic ones between people that you trust. Nevertheless, such ideas are easily copied or replicated by others. For example, Cameron Vinklevoss, Tyler Vinklevoss and Divya Narendra, all of whom were former schoolmates with Zuckerberg in Harvard, filed a lawsuit against him claiming that he stole their ConnectU idea to create the highly successful Facebook website. While we do not pretend to know what actually transpired back then, it is clear that while ConnectU came first, it was Zuckerberg’s similar system overshadowed it and eventually developed into the global phenomenon that most of us know too well today. Zuckerberg became rich and famous while the other three are barely remembered. To be fair, they did get a multi-million dollar settlement but this hardly compares to Zuckerberg’s current networth.

Confidentiality or Non-Disclosure Agreements

As you can see, there are compelling reasons to ensure that sensitive information, like an unrealized business idea for example, is kept confidential.  Some ways to achieve this includes entering into a Confidentiality Agreement or Non-Disclosure Agreement. These are legal contracts that bind the recipients of such confidential information and prohibit them from disclosing it to a 3rd party without the expressed consent of the originator.  If you are seeking to enter into such an agreement, you would be advised to seek professional assistance so that a more tailored agreement could be formulated to provide you with a more effective protection of your interests.

Intellectual Property Rights

Once your business idea takes flight, it is highly recommended that a more formal and active action is taken in the form of Intellectual Property protection.  Intellectual Property (IP) is defined as creations of the human mind.  A creative work, an original expression, or technical solutions to a problem… all of these can be creations of value.  If these ideas or creations are copied or stolen, it could undermine your startup business.  Make sure you formally protect these business assets.

Types of IP Protection

Singapore offers various forms of IP protection.  These include:

  • Patents
    A patent is a monopoly right given to the owner of an invention that enables them to prevent others from using, copying or making the invention without their consent.
  • Trade marks
    A trade mark is a sign used in the course business or trade to distinguish his goods from those of others.
  • Registered Designs
    A registered design is a right used primarily to protect designs used for industrial application.
  • Copyright
    Copyright work can include novels, computer software, music and paintings.  It protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works.  These rights enable the owner to control the unauthorized use of his work.
  • Layout-designs of the integrated circuits
    Singapore law prevents the copying and unauthorized use of an original layout or design of an integrated  circuit.
  • Geographical indications
  • Trade secrets and confidential information
    A trade secret is information that is important to the business and in not known to the general public.
  • Plant varieties
    This is a right given to plant breeders to prevent others from doing any unauthorized act in respect of propagating or harvesting material of the protected plant variety.

At HC Consultancy, we offer all Singapore companies comprehensive consultation and implementation of these IP protection methods.

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