This can be difficult. Technically the best way is with a non disclosure agreement but not every place will sign one. Obtain local ip counsel and follow their advice.
A Non-Disclosure might work. But not a "simple" NDA from LegalZoom. See counsel.
My comments have been made without discussion. An attorney client relationship has not been established. There may be conflicts which prohibit my providing you with specific legal guidance. Any contact with you beyond these few general words will start with a disclosure of opposing parties so that a conflict check can be made. You should discuss with an attorney.
What "intellectual property"?
You may have a copyright in the written materials that you create [such as a copyrightable logo or character, or radio ad script, or television commercial] but, absent that, you have no intellectual property. You simply have an idea for how something can be advertised for sale.
The most relevant law is contract law -- specifically, "idea submission" law. The practical reality is that advertising companies, and their clients, do not normally entertain unsolicited advertising ideas. They have no need because everyone involved is aleady laser focused on coming up with new and creative ways to advertise the widget or service being sold. So ... you will very likley discover that no one will sign a non-disclosure agreement before listening to your advertising idea. Their downside is far greater than any potential upside.
Nonetheless, speak with your own intellectual property attorney about how to present your advertising idea. Perhaps by volunteering it and persuading the company to pay you or hiring you to implement it. Or something else. Good luck.
The above response is general information ONLY and is not legal advice, does not form an attorney-client relationship, and should NOT be relied upon to take or refrain from taking any action. I am not your attorney. You should seek the advice of competent counsel before taking any action related to your inquiry.
First, what IP are we talking about exactly? If that can be formally protected then this will go a long way. But as you know, "ideas" are not protectable. Yes, entering into a binding contract of course will offer some degree of protection, but these need to drafted properly and they also need to be particularized to be enforceable. That is, if they are over-broad they will not work.
I suggest that you consult with a lawyer in private and discuss your objectives in more detail. You can start by calling around to several for a free phone consultation, get some insights then pick the best fit to work with.
DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed with the law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC on the basis of this posting.
As others have noted, exactly what type of intellectual property are we discussing? My answer assumes a patentable invention, which may or may not be correct.
Before bringing others into the picture, I always recommend protecting whatever you have that is protectable, obtaining filing dates that predate providing any information to them. If we are talking about a patentable invention, this means you should file a patent application. You will need to be able to describe your invention well enough so that someone skilled in the art can make and use the invention. If you cannot meet this requirement, then you really have nothing to market, although some less ethical companies will try anyway. Your idea must also be novel and nonobvious, making a patentability search advisable before spending money on applications and commercialization.
As others have indicated, a nondisclosure agreement is critical. The agreement should specify that you own the intellectual property. If they contribute to the intellectual property, the agreement should require them to assign it to you as well as execute any other documents necessary to give effect to your ownership (patent application declarations, for example).
Given the likelihood that the marketing company you are referring to is an invention promotion company, and given the percentage of these companies that have questionable business practices, you need to investigate the company you choose thoroughly before signing a contract with them.
Check the website of the Secretary of State in which the company is located for other names under which the company has operated. Once you have all the names, check the Federal Trade Commission website as well as the US Patent and Trademark Office web pages dealing with invention promoters. The USPTO scam prevention page is here:
Read about the required disclosures on the above-linked page. If the company does not provide them, or is structured in a way to avoid having to disclose them, that is cause for concern.
If you call one company, and suddenly find yourself dealing with multiple businesses operating from the same address and with the same set of directors, then that is a concern.
Have an attorney review any contracts you are asked to sign. These companies typically offer 3 day cancellation clauses, after which you are stuck.
If any “marketability” or other reports are prepared by the company showing likelihood of profiting from the invention, make sure that the report includes the details that should typically be included in such a report. Often, these reports will be signed by one or more experts with fancy letters after their name, and include very positive conclusions without any real information about how those conclusions were reached. Such reports should include exactly what steps were taken to study the idea, and exactly how those steps led to the conclusions reached within the report. The failure to include such details is a big red flag.
Trying to get a company to consider a new idea is often thought of - or presented as - being much easier than it really is. The only successes I have seen are individuals who have pre-existing relationships with the company, and/or are well-known experts in their field. To the extent that this remains your goal, I am convinced that you can market your invention as well as, or better than, anyone who you could pay to do ir for you. You understand what your invention does and why it is important. Be careful how your invention is submitted. Many idea submission pages for many companies include an agreement that, by submitting your idea, you agree that they are free to use it unless you have an issued patent.
Your most likely means of profiting from your invention is bringing it to the market yourself. This typically means starting a business around the invention - a difficult, time-consuming, but potentially very worthwhile task.
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