Recently Dyson, which makes vacuum cleaners, sued Samsung, claiming that Samsung’s new line of vacuum cleaners uses technology that is copyrighted by Dyson. This has been a troublesome year for Samsung, as Apple won a patent ruling against Samsung in August, banning U.S. imports that infringe two Apple patents.
From a consumer’s standpoint, when does enforcing a patent become too much? It makes fiscal sense for a company like Dyson or Apple to sue Samsung for patent infringement, but will patent enforcement make new technology fewer and farther between?
Companies should not be able to “steal” ideas; but it would be superb if companies could improve upon an existing technology without fear of reprisal, especially if they were able to provide a royalty or some sort of benefit to the originating company?
Both of these lawsuits prove that when you have an idea, you should complete the research to ensure that idea does not already exist; otherwise you can find yourself facing a lawsuit.
Business people can be hard pressed to protect ideas themselves; most patents are for physical items. The following are some tips to ensure your idea stays within your hands.
- Patents. One of the top ways to get your idea protected is to file a patent; but your idea needs to be fairly detailed before you’re able to file a patent on it. You cannot file a patent on a general idea, such as a flying car; you need to have specific details on how that car will work, what type of engine it will have, what the materials are made out of. Keep in mind, as well, that patents cost money, and depending on the type of patent, can from hundreds to thousands of dollars. They also come with continuing payments in the form of filing and maintenance fees, on top of the upfront payment.
- NDAs. Non-disclosure agreements are an excellent way to protect your idea. By getting employees and potential vendors to sign this agreement, they are legally bound to keep your idea a secret. If they fail to do so, they can be sued for disclosing the information.
- Mine! Mark any paperwork with your idea as “confidential,” “trademarked,” or “copyright 2013” – even if you don’t plan on filing for trademarks or copyrights. These labels show that you consider the idea as your own, and that you do not want anyone else copying it. This might be enough to deter someone wishing to steal your idea.
Ideas are the genesis of any company, and are extremely important to becoming a successful entrepreneur. Ensuring that no one steals your idea is not only to make sure you get the credit, but also to cut down on competition. If you have an idea that improves upon an existing technology or product, and you are serious about marketing it, the best solution would be to go to a lawyer to investigate if that technology has already been thought of. Good luck in your brainstorming!