Protect your ideas

Protect your idea

"Have you considered how you would even find out that a fisherman somewhere is using a device similar to yours, which might infringe your intellectual property protection?"

Tony Hadfielf, CEO, Seafood Innovations Ltd, New Zealand.

If you develop your idea with the thought of making money from it, you may want to protect it against someone else 'stealing' or copying it. Be aware that this will not necessarily be cheap or easy.

Seek proper intellectual property advice (e.g. patents) early on. Approach someone who deals with intellectual property law and patents in your country. And as a starting point, ask them what they charge for a consultation, and what they think it would cost to protect your idea.

One key issue to consider around intellectual property is the fact that any 'public disclosure' of an idea effectively makes it non-patentable. This could include any descriptions of it given in newspapers or magazines, for instance. But it could also include emails or conversations with people where there is no formal agreement or notice of confidentiality.

Be aware that different countries have different patent laws. Also be aware that full patent protection can be costly to get, and will almost certainly be expensive to police and maintain - particularly if you want to apply it internationally.

You not only need to be able to find someone somewhere who may be breaching your patent, but you need to hire the lawyers to take them to court. And if the person or company you are taking to court is backed by lots of money, you may face a long and expensive legal battle.