How_to_protect_without_a_patentMany people who start a small business do so because they feel they have a truly unique idea. Many individuals just starting their small business may not have enough money to utilize the patent process. In some cases, it makes sense for a small business to try and sell their product without a patent. There are still cases where a person's idea can be protected without the patent process.

Determine Ownership
If a person came up with the idea on their own, they may not have a problem. When an idea results from the interaction of a group, there needs to be an understanding. All those involved need to be an agreement of how the idea was created. Cooperation between group members will be necessary to protect the idea.

Able to be Patented
A small business inventor needs to be certain they have an idea that could be successful in the patent process. This means the idea needs to be unique, serve a purpose, and not something that is currently in existence. When this is verified, the small business inventor may be able to establish a company and put their idea into the market.

Non-Disclosure Agreement
One way for a small business inventor to protect their idea is to have all employees sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. This is also an agreement that small business owners can ask potential customers, investors, as well as contractors to sign. This type of agreement is designed to prevent individuals from taking the inventor's idea and developing it to the next level.

Non-Compete Agreement
This is something that needs to be signed by employees, contractors, or any other third party with access to an inventor's idea. This agreement will prevent another business from being started that is similar to the small business owner's invention. There can be a time limit put in these agreements. A geographic area can also be determined where a similar business cannot be started.

Work-For-Hire Agreement
There may come a time when a small business inventor needs to have outside help to finish building their invention. A work-for-hire agreement can be signed by a contractor or anyone who can help turn the idea into reality. If they improve the idea, the small business inventor will still owns the rights to it.


Determining how to protect an idea without a patent is a decision many business owners face. Download our free white paper, To Patent or Not to Patent, to learn more.

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