Always seek legal advise when starting a business or protecting your work.
We’ve been working on a prototype (now our second incarnation of the design, the first didn’t work). This is what we’ve learned so far.
Don’t put too much energy into protecting your idea, put it into
executing it. Firstly if you have a idea, that’s all you have. It’s only in your head or maybe on your laptop or phone; it certainly isn’t out there where anybody can see it. If you don’t discuss your idea with people you can’t get any feedback on it.
You can still be careful about it “We’ve got this idea for a travel aid
with the advantage of providing the ability to put your feet up during
long haul travel and go to sleep without paying for a business class seat”.
We didn’t tell you how to achieve this and wouldn’t share the details until we’re confident we can trust the person we’re speaking too, but we’ve explained the benefits (sell the sizzle, not sausage!).
Don’t worry about patenting an idea; if your can write the patent yourself great, if you cant you’ll need to hire an expensive patent lawyer. Either way it’s not going to be cheap!
Our layman’s advice is to apply for the patent once you’ve checked that there’s a commercial need for your product you can always use a Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA) if you want to talk to a company. They take months to be approved and at least you’ve got a record of it.
Then when you have a finished design get an attorney to write your patent. You wouldn’t want to spend 6 months and a few hundred quid/dollars on your design only for someone to steal it 2 years down the line.
There is of course another argument to the patent discussion, one that
you shouldn’t bother at all (especially this early on!). Bear with us here it’s not as crazy as it sounds for 3 reasons.
One, if your idea’s that easy to copy its probably not worth your effort, maybe you should re-think it.
Two, the chances are that a some point some body is going to make a cheap imitation somewhere, unless you can afford tens of thousands defending your patent it’s not worth it.
Finally if you execute your design and business better than the competition it doesn’t matter anyway, you’ll blow them away!