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How to protect an idea in a quick step?

Shrewsbury, MA |

I have an idea, my idea takes around one year to plan it accurately, I want to take some step soon so I can feel free to explain my idea for prospective helpers about my idea without any worrying about stealing it.

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Attorney answers 4


Talk to a patent attorney about whether you have a concrete enough idea to file a provisional patent application and, if you do, get one on file that will be a good basis for a non-provisional application. As development proceeds, consider filing additional provisionals along the way to capture major changes or improvements. Also, your patent attorney should be able to provide you with a good non-disclosure/non-use agreement that also assigns any invention by your "helpers" to you (or your company) and obligates them to execute papers memorializing the assignment when/if a non-provisional is filed.

Since you think it will take about 1 year, and a non-provisional will need to be filed within one year from your provisional, using one or more updated provisionals will allow you to decide which one(s) you want/need to claim priority to. A competent patent attorney can advise you about the benefits and risks of using multiple provisionals but not claiming priority to the earliest one.

Good luck with your idea!

This information is intended to be general and educational in nature. It is not intended to be specific legal advice or establish an attorney-client relationship. I require a signed retainer agreement from a potential client to establish an attorney-client relationship and before I will provide specific legal representation.


What steps you can take depends on the nature of your idea - i.e., patent, trademark, copyright, etc. However, a general step you can take is to use a non-disclosure agreement with prospective helpers.


The answer provided is only for general information purposes and does not constitute legal advice.


Nothing will prevent someone from stealing your idea if that is what they really want to do. So the real questions are: what can you do to discourage someone from stealing your idea and to maximize your options for recovery if they do steal your idea?

Note also that generally, ideas alone are not protectable (via some intellectual property protection), more than a mere idea is needed.

Please get your own attorney(s) to help you with these suggestions; the devil is in the details.

You can use contracts. You should consider appropriately drafted contracts between you and your helpers (i.e., employment agreements, independent contractor agreements, NDA, etc.), which can contain some type of confidentiality section and intellectual property assignment section. There are additional provisions you might consider; please discuss the pros and cons with your attorney. Hopefully these will discourage idea theft and give you some recourse. But if not, and if your idea is made public (and is patentable in nature), then that public disclosure could destroy some of your patent rights.

So, if your idea is patentable in nature, you should also consider filing some type of patent application before getting help from others. As already mentioned, you might consider using a provisional application, but you might also use a non-provisional application (both in the U.S.). Or you might file one Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) application to get a jump on patent protection around the world. Filing an application before getting help can provide you with another layer of discouragement and recourse.

Getting patent protection is not cheap and you should really think about why you want to go that route, especially in view of any business plans you might have for your idea. Talk to your patent attorney.

Filing a “good” patent application requires a specific level of disclosure, which you may or may not have at this time. If your idea is completed in your mind, and all the help you need is on the implementation side, then you might have enough for a patent application. For example, if you are not a computer programmer, but you have a software-related idea for which you have mapped out a complete set of flow-charts on how your idea will work. You might be able to file a patent application first, and then get help on the actual coding of the software using your flow charts.

Best of Luck!

Legal disclaimer: This answer is not legal advice, but is for informational purposes only. My answer to your question does not create an attorney-client relationship between us. Please contact a licensed attorney in your area for competent legal advice. I can be reached via my practice Paradigm IP Law, PC at


Want a "quick step" to protect your idea? As a franchise attorney I can recommend one - don't tell anybody about it. Keep it "secret," like Coca-Cola does for it's Coke recipe. And like KFC does for its "secret herbs and spices."

Provide - sell only the end result, or break things up, so different people do different things and only know insignificant parts. It's not really possible to comment any further without knowing what your idea is and if this can be done. Consult with a good IP attorney in your area for specific advice. Good luck!

Kevin B. Murphy, B.S., M.B.A., J.D.
Franchise Attorney & Franchise Expert
Director of Operations - Mr. Franchise

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