Lol, won’t people still steal my idea?

“If your product is good, there will be people copying it”.

– Frank Carney, founder of Pizza Hut.

I randomly saw the book, “How to really start your own business by David E Gumpert when I went to the University of Edinburgh’s Business School’s library/reading hub to do some work. It called out to me and said “Mirabelle, please pick me because I’m yellow and I’m happy!

Indeed, it called unto me, and I answered it. I asked the librarian if I could borrow the book, and she said students could read it within the premises but not take it out. The alternatives for me were to borrow a physical copy from the university’s main library or borrow one online. So I went to Amazon and bought myself a personal copy to read from the comfort of my room and use it for future reference.

So I’ll tell you what I’ve learned from this book about protecting your business idea and what the author, Gumpert, says too.

There’s less danger than you imagine

The more you test your idea on people, the more feedback you can get, which can help you see what to improve. From Gumpert’s experience working with many entrepreneurs, there’s no right way to protect an idea; more often than not, fear is just “false evidence appearing real”. Imagine someone tells you about a brand new idea they’re working on, chances are that your life is already too full and busy and you’re just trying to get by. If you’re like most people, you’re probably sceptical about trying unfamiliar, new ideas and would not go on to implement them. Except you’re an actual competitor who is actively in the business.

How to strike the right balance

The above is not to say you shouldn’t watch out and keep your ideas and IPs (intellectual properties) close to you. 

“The most brilliant idea in the world is worthless if you are so worried about it being taken that you shy away from testing it appropriately and fully. Even the most brilliant ideas will need to be altered in important ways before they can be turned into successful businesses. And the only way to determine how is to do the necessary market testing, which entails some leap of faith about letting others in on important aspects of the idea”.

– Gumpert

Because if what you’ve got is good and it’s working, there will be people trying to imitate your idea. But do not spend too much time worrying about it. Worry more about your customer, about getting to the market first, worry about making profits and how you’re going to grow your business. 

If you have an imitator, also watch what they are doing so you can gain insights on where they’re getting it right or wrong. Use that to refine your offering.

Software and tech

If you’ve invented something or created a piece of technology or software, you must be careful not to disclose too many details about its internal workings until you have sorted out the legal rights and protection details, since you are trying to spread the word about your fantastic idea. A lawyer can help.

The first hands you have on deck

To get the ball rolling, you’ll need people on your team. As those will be some of the first people who will be working with you, they’ll possibly have the most details about your business or your idea. In order to safeguard the details they have access to, you can have them sign a non-disclosure agreement to not disclose sensitive information about your business. Or a non-compete agreement to not establish competing businesses themselves or work for competitors within a stipulated amount of time. 

Total protection is impossible

Can you really 100% have total protection over an idea? You can apply for a patent, service mark or trademark to protect your ideas. But it’s no easy task having 100% protection over an idea.


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