So, you want to protect your business from being stolen?
You have a great business idea, and the first person you tell is your best friend. Your friend believes it’s such a brilliant idea that could make you tons of money, but when you mention telling more people, your friend asks you, “Have you protected your business from being stolen?”
It’s a good question that any person trying to start a business should ask. How do you protect your business from being stolen?
Good question! Now, if you are reading this, you’ve probably taken more steps to get useful information. Before we move on to the larger part of this post, I need you to know that you know you can protect a “business from being stolen,” but you can’t protect a business idea from being stolen.
There’s no agency that protects ideas in your head or ideas you’ve told someone. You can’t stop someone from stealing ideas you told them. Nor can you prevent them from building on that idea you love so much.
But, if you’ve put that idea into work or created a startup or put this idea on paper, then you’ve passed the “idea” stage and I congratulate you. There’s a way to protect that business from being stolen.
So, should you be afraid that someone might steal your business from you?
You should be. That’s why doing all it takes to protect your business is important.
Do you know why? Even if you have the greatest idea, the moment you start up, people will pick your ideas and add better ideas and make them theirs. Let’s take, for example, Facebook! Facebook isn’t the first social media network; there was MySpace, but that didn’t stop Mark Zuckerberg from going further with Facebook.
What about the story idea on Snapchat? It didn’t stop Instagram from using that idea, or Facebook, and now many platforms, such as Pinterest, make use of the “story” option.
Do you get where I’m coming from?
If you are working on a groundbreaking invention, such as the machine, tool, art, literary work, something medical, or a formula, you must protect it at all costs.
But before you actually learn how to protect your business from being stolen, you need to know the things people can steal from your startup.
What are the things you can protect in your business?
1. Physical objects or spaces
This might seem odd, but it happens. Your ideas that you’ve put on paper can be stolen if care isn’t taken. What does this mean?
It means your formula, machinery, or tool can be stolen if you’ve not done the right thing. Anyone could steal your physical ideas and make them theirs, but patenting or copyrighting your work can prevent someone from using them.
2. Data or information
Anyone trying to steal from you can do so through cyber attacks.
When you don’t protect your company’s database, information, especially important innovations, could be stolen from you.
3. Logos, name or identity
People sometimes do not bother protecting this because they feel no one would descend so low. But it’s not shocking that people can steal your brand name for personal reasons. They could steal your business’s logo or even a smell identifiable with your brand.
All these things need to be protected, or else you risk losing what really makes your brand “that brand”.
4. Trade secrets
The trade secrets of your startup shouldn’t be in the public. Your trade secrets could be another brilliant idea your company is planning to launch, or even a new design.
The only people who should know about these trade secrets are your partners or employees, who, of course, must already be bound by an NDA, a non-compete document, and a work-for-hire legal contract.
How To Protect Your Business From Being Stolen
This is the big question that will be answered in this article. You can protect your business from being stolen in so many ways, from patents to copyright and many more. Without further ado, here are surefire ways you can prevent people from stealing your business:
1. To protect your business from theft, protect it from inside
I know you might wonder what this means, but get this: many businesses that have been stolen were by an insider.
Let’s say you thought of a business idea. You decide to involve your friend or neighbour, and you both start up the business, but end up having a tussle. You risk having your business stolen from you.
Your friend knows so much about this idea. They know how everything works; they know how much they need to build on this idea on their own, and they might even take it several steps further by patenting this idea.
To prevent such a thing from happening, you need to be prepared.
Look, people can easily take ideas from you if your business partner has competency in your line of work. So start thinking strategically and realize someone who is competent in your field can be a problem for you.
Your operations manager, prospective investor, and especially your cofounder, have the potential to steal your business and become the most formidable competitor you have ever imagined.
Like I said earlier, people don’t just steal ideas, but an insider who knows the people you work with, your plans, and investors can steal your business. So make sure you work not only hard but work smart. You need to sign exclusives with your partners, employees, and many more.
To work smart and protect your business from being stolen by your employees, you need to do:
- A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is important.
This legally enforceable document binds everyone working with you to not discuss any information about your business elsewhere.
This way, your workers can’t leak anything about your start-up. So, if you want to know how to protect your business from being stolen, having your workers sign an NDA is a good first step.
- Non-Compete Agreement.
As much as the NDA protects people who work with you from leaking information about your business, the non-compete agreement is even more valid.
Remember, stealing your business could also mean a competing startup, right? This legal document binds your partners or employees from establishing a competing business like yours. So if you to protect your business from being stolen, then this is another sure step to take.
These legal documents make any idea your employee comes up with for the good of the company become yours. What this means is that, so long as your employee brings an idea forward to grow your business, it instantly becomes yours.
These three documents mentioned above would protect your business from being stolen by your partners and employees.
2. Protect the spine of your idea
As stated earlier, you can’t register an idea, but you can protect your startup the moment it becomes more than an idea in your head. The spine of your idea is called intellectual property.
How can you do this? How do you prevent a business from being stolen?
How can you legally protect your business?
I will answer many questions in this section.
You can protect the spine of your ideas through the following means:
- Trademark your business’s identity.
- Copyright the ideas you’ve put out.
- Patenting your innovations.
This is one of the major steps that could protect your business in so many ways. To patent your ideas, the government grants you the right to stop other people from copying, creating, selling, or making use of your innovations for a specific period.
So if the spine of your business idea is a device, a procedure, machine, tool, or a formula, then it’s time to patent this start-up and claim ownership over it.
Remember, you can’t patent an idea, but you can patent something physical if it has the following features:
- Your startup should be new.
Your innovation should meet the requirements of “new”. It shouldn’t be a remake of something that has existed before.
It should be an actual invention that involves putting ideas together to make something that has never existed.
- Your startup must be patentable.
When the government wants to patent a tool, machine, process, formula, etc., it usually falls into a category.
So if you want your invention to be patentable, then it’s important that you take into consideration if it’ll fall into these categories:
- Accessories of computers
- The hardware of a computer
- Software of a computer
- Business process, method, or procedure
- A game
- Adding advancement to the internet
- A musical instrument
- Sporting tools and many more.
This means businesses like Uber can’t patent their start-up business because, in the eyes of the law, this business model doesn’t fall into any of the mentioned categories or categories stated by the government.
It has to be shocking, right? If businesses like Uber can’t patent their ideas, then can Netflix patent theirs?
Netflix invented the computer-implement approach for renting and watching movies and shows in 2003 and patented this innovation. Amazon did the same with their 1-Click system business method, and this set both Amazon and Netflix apart from their competitors.
- Trademark your business identity
You can trademark logos, names, taglines, colours, and so on. These things are known as the “identities” of products or companies.
Trademarks protect the identity of a business from being stolen or taken from you.
That’s why Coca-Cola looks different from Pepsi and many other soda companies.
So if your startup’s identity hasn’t been trademarked, it’s time to do so. You don’t want anyone stealing a brand name you put in hard work to create or a logo you spent so much making.
You need a legal document that protects your works, such as music, art, pictures, videos, visual pieces, sounds, and literary works. With this, no one else can republish or reprint your literary or artwork, and no one can record your music except you.
This piece of legal documentation is pretty common among artists or the entertainment industry. This copyright prevents your scripts, literary works, or music from being stolen and republished by another individual or company.
But know this: there are many methods you can make use of for protecting your business from being stolen by anyone.
Apart from doing things through documents like NDA or non-compete agreements, you can also try these simple methods to protect your startup. These surefire ways are:
1. Share equity
People love the idea of owning something. It gives a sense of power and accomplishment. So what does this really mean?
You can always make someone your partner or part of a startup. This helps because people rarely steal from something they are part of.
Does this defeat the purpose of the NDA? Not really! You can always do this and still get an NDA or non-compete agreement.
2. Record or document everything about your startup
It’s actually a good idea to always document everything concerning your business, even if you do something as small as telling people some information about your startup.
3. Protect your business from theft, do some digging
You shouldn’t just bring people into your startup without actually making some background checks on them. Who knows? You might find something that would prevent future problems for you.
If you find out an employee already has the habit of leaking information between competing companies in your field, it’s wise to stay away from such a person.
4. Spread the word about your startup
If you’ve already taken the legal steps concerning your startup business, then it’s totally fine to announce to people the business you’ve created. This can deter people from actually copying your work.
So when you have a startup and you’ve asked people how to protect your business from being stolen, there are always smart ways to go about it.
There could be that one person trying to steal this business and make it their own. Don’t let fear stop you from thinking of ideas and developing something from them.
As much as it’s good to keep ideas to yourself, you need people to analyze your start-up with you so you can get honest reviews.
Talk to people you trust, talk about your ideas and get feedback. Once you know this will have a tremendous impact, bring your idea to life and protect your startup at all costs!