How do I protect my business concept?

UPDATED: Apr 12, 2011

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How do I protect my business concept?

I need to understand intellectual property as it relates to protecting an idea. For example, I have an idea for a website. I would like to pitch this website to larger companies with the potential for partnership. How do I protect myself from these larger companies rejecting my proposal but stealing the concept for themselves?

Asked on April 12, 2011 under Business Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Ideas generally are not protectable by intellectual property; intellectual property law (e.g. copyright, patents) protects the expression of ideas--how something is specifically written, or drawn, or software coded, etc.--not the idea itself.

You can, however, try to protect yourself by contract law. Have anyone you are considering disclosing the idea to execute a confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement first. The agreement will state that the idea is yours; it  is being shared or shown only for purposes of evaluating a business relationship or investment; that the party being shown the idea has no rights to it and may not, without your permission, use it for its own or another's benefit or sell, etc. the idea to others; and that if/when discussions end or upon demand, the other party will return all materials to you and destroy all copies, notes, etc. in their possession.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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