Protecting your ideas

Safeguarding your ideas and inventions – also known as intellectual property – is critical to business success.

You can do this with a patent, but registration is neither straightforward nor cheap and a number of factors should be kept in mind.

1. Is your idea a sound commercial proposition? If it won't get off the ground you will be wasting your money registering it. You should also ensure that nobody has got there first – a Google search is a good start.

2. Next stop is the Patent Office where a search of the records will reveal if a similar idea has been patented. You can do this yourself or use a patent agent or patent attorney.

3. A patent prevents anyone else from making, using, selling or importing your invention for up to 20 years. But patents apply only to the country which has granted them so think carefully about where you need the protection.

4. A patent can take three or four years to arrive and one of the main issues affecting growing businesses is the need to develop and market your product as soon as possible. Consider how you will safeguard your idea during this period.

5. Obtaining a patent can also be expensive and you often need deep pockets to enforce it. It is sometimes more cost-effective not to apply for the patent and instead rely on keeping your idea confidential.

For more information on protecting your intellectual property, contact your professional advisor.

Adam Parton
Moore and Smalley