Have you ever seen an off-brand Mickey Mouse costume? They're rather terrifying. That's because if you want to make money as a Mickey character, you have to pay royalties or fees to Disney.
Disney is one company that knows how to protect intellectual property. It helps that they have all the money in the world - but we can still learn from them.
If you're in the middle of developing a product/project, get our tips on how to protect it from idea vultures below.
1. Don't File for a Patent, Necessarily
When you file for a patent, you're showing competitors exactly how to make your product. And while the patents are meant to stop idea/project plagiarism from happening, they don't - at least not for long.
Think about when you walk down the soda aisle in a grocery store. How many knock-off brands of the big-name sodas are there? A ton, right?
That's because those beverages figured out a workaround to the original patent. They tweak things just enough to not get sued, but not enough to not be successful.
There are some industries, where patents are must - but ask yourself if yours is one of them.
2. ABC - Always Be Changing
Let's look at one of the most successful technology companies in the world - Apple. How many iPhone versions can you remember?
There was the first iPhone, the iPod touch - which was the predecessor, and now we're on, what? The iPhone 10?
There's plenty of smartphone competition out there, from Motorola to LG, to Google - but Apple stays successful. Some people think it has to do with brand loyalty, and that's some of it.
But it also has to do with how often Apple comes out with changes. When the rest of the market catches up, they release a new line of changes and the cycle starts again.
Of course, they're not perfect. Think about what flop the "Apple pencil" was. But they're still a good example of how to stay on top of the competition when it comes to intellectual property.
People are always going to find a way to copy a good idea. You have to jump ahead of them the moment they catch up.
That means investing more resources in your development team - but it's worth it for your sales and reputation.
3. Separate Your Teams
If you're creating a new project, it's a good idea to have none of your teams knows 100% of the product or process. Each team works on their part and only gets enough information to do their job.
Another team in another place does another part of the product/project and only knows what they need to know. This keeps your employees from leaving and having the exact recipe for your project.
While we'd like to assume that our employees would respect our companies and their NDR agreements, not everyone does. The pull of money is a bigger pull than loyalty - which has proved true in most cases. Especially politics!
4. Get a Strong Non-Disclosure Agreement
NDR's are tricky. People usually spend just as much arguing them as they do from winning them. They're hard to defend in court, because of freedom of speech.
And a lot of people don't put harsh enough restrictions on their NDRs. If the punishment for releasing information is being fired, why does that person, who's selling your information care?
They're probably making more with the other company than they did at their last position, which leads us to our next point.
5. Treat Your Employees (Really) Well
One reason employees leak information or go to the competitor is because they don't feel valued. If you want them to protect your information out of loyalty (and not fear) make sure you treat them well.
People are less likely to betray a company that's been nothing but kind to them. Think about it in real life situation terms. Who would you rather betray? Your very best friend in the world or that one friend who you're not sure actually likes you?
Pretty simple. That's not to say that it always works. There are plenty of people who betray those who are kind and loving to them, but we can hope.
Other than product loyalty and secrecy, valuing your employees has other benefits too. They'll do better work and even stay healthier in a positive environment.
6. Get Ahead of It
A lot of people don't go through the hassle of protecting a product or an idea until they know it's successful. But that's not a good model.
First of all, you need to have more trust in your ideas and products. Second, if you don't protect it until it's already out in the open, it gives competitors a safety period. You don't want to give them time to copy you, while it's still legal to do so.
As soon as a product passes the think tank and gets into development or production, you should already be working on ways to keep it safe.
Yes - trademarks and copyrights cost money, but they're worth it. Learn more about that whole process.
How to Protect Intellectual Property
With all the tips above, you should have a leg up on your competition. Now you know that you should treat your process to protect intellectual property as another step in product development.
Don't give other companies a chance to figure out what you're doing. You want that money for yourself, right?
It's not selfish. It's business! For more business resources, click here.