'How-to' guide shows entrepreneurs how to protect their big ideas

Sep 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Successful entrepreneurs turn big ideas into successful business opportunities, but how should they protect those ideas? A new paper from North Carolina State University offers a "how-to" guide on intellectual property protection, laying out the options for budding entrepreneurs as they consider how to move forward.

"Entrepreneurs often come up with ideas that can be protected, and this article lays out the pros and cons of various intellectual-property protections," says Dr. Stephen Schanz, a teaching associate professor of management, and entrepreneurship at NC State and the author of the article. "Furthermore, the paper urges entrepreneurs to weigh the time, cost and effort involved in pursuing various intellectual-property protections."

The three protections outlined in the paper are patents, trade secrets and copyrights. Patents apply to inventions and devices. Utility patents provide legal protection of the idea for 20 years, dating from when the patent application is filed. However, when the 20 years are up, the information becomes part of the public domain. Trade secrets also apply to inventions or devices, but are protected internally, meaning that there is very little in the way of public protection. The benefit is that the idea never enters the public domain, so it can remain secret in perpetuity - a good example of a trade secret is the formula for Coca-Cola. However, if anyone else figures it out, they can legally market it themselves.

The third type of protection is a copyright. Copyrights protect unique expressions, such as music, art or design. These elements can be a significant component of marketable products, such as the sounds and images associated with popular video games.

"Determining which protections best suit your needs is not a 'one size fits all' scenario," Schanz says. "The options you may want to consider will vary over time." For example, he says, "entrepreneurs in a young start-up company with limited capital and resources may want to go the trade secret route until they ascertain how it fits in their business plan. But, if they have determined that the idea is valuable, they should also take steps to ensure that - eventually - it can be patented." Schanz explains that if an discusses the idea with outside parties who have not signed non-disclosure agreements, the idea may no longer be patentable - it will have entered public domain.

"If, over time, the start-up company has more resources available - and the concept is commercially viable - it may want to pursue a patent," Schanz says. "The important thing is for the entrepreneur to weigh the risks and benefits of various options and make an informed decision. This paper should help entrepreneurs do that."

More information: The paper, "Entrepreneurial Options for Protecting Intellectual Property," was published in the September issue of the Entrepreneurial Business Law Journal.

Source: North Carolina State University (news : web)

Explore further: Study finds Illinois is most critical hub in food distribution network

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

U.S.: China must 'crack down' on piracy

Nov 14, 2005

The Chinese government must "crack down" on piracy and enforce intellectual-property rights, the top U.S. trade official said Monday in Beijing.

Technology Start-Ups Get Tips on Starting Out

Dec 14, 2007

Talk more about business and less about technology. Have a solid team. And consider calling on angels. Those were some of the key lessons at a UT Dallas workshop last week for would-be entrepreneurs seeking capital to turn ...

Recommended for you

Industrial clusters fuel economies, according to study

8 hours ago

Experts have long theorized that having a cluster of firms within a given industry helps a region's economy grow. Now a study co-authored by an MIT professor shows empirically that clusters of almost all ...

Economic output less dependent on road transportation

8 hours ago

For the past 10 years, motorization in the U.S. has been on the decline, due mainly to more telecommuting, greater use of public transit, increased urbanization of the population and changes in the ages of drivers.

Economist outlines work on managing tasks and time

Dec 17, 2014

"When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight," said Samuel Johnson, "it concentrates his mind wonderfully." Most of us, spared such an imperative, carry on in a less-concentrated state, but it holds ...

Companies do not use online HRM effectively

Dec 15, 2014

Professor Tanya Bondarouk of the University of Twente thinks it's embarrassing : many companies and organizations are still not making effective use of e-HRM systems. These online systems can be used for a wide range of HRM-related ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.