• Intellectual property
  • July 02, 2021

How To Protect Your Business Ideas

By Lawbite Team

Talk to a Lawyer Free Legal Help

Many intangible business assets fall into one of the protectable categories of intellectual property. Distinctive branding features or inventions, for example, would be protectable as trademarks or patents respectively.
Mere ideas (at least before they have been executed) however, can be difficult to protect legally. Copyright, for example, only protects the expression of ideas (once they have been recorded or fixed somehow) and not the ideas themselves. This is known as the idea-expression dichotomy. In other words, it will only protect the output of the idea and the way that idea is expressed, not the idea itself.
So what if your business concept, brainwave or initiative is still just an idea? In these early stages, it’s important to be selective about who you reveal your ideas to. That’s because confidentiality is the only real way to protect an idea. English common law, automatically dictates that a person who has received information in confidence cannot take unfair advantage of it without the discloser's consent. However, it is always advisable to have a written confidentiality agreement (or non-disclosure agreement/NDA) in place to ensure the recipient is contractually obliged to keep the information confidential. Doing that avoids problems of falling back on the default position and having to prove that the information disclosed was confidential and that the recipient knew or ought to have known that.

Then there are trade secrets, which are a specific form of confidential information that is commercially valuable, treated as secret (or known to a small group of people) and gives the owner a competitive advantage. That might include new technologies, secret formulas and recipes, technical know-how, source code, algorithms, sales methods, manufacturing processes and customer lists. The list is not exhaustive - it could cover whatever is non-public and sensitive to your business, and can include a very wide scope of information assets.

Trade secrets can serve as a useful substitute or complement to patents.  Firms often choose trade secrets to maintain a competitive advantage, especially when an invention is not eligible for a patent or when the inventor does not wish to disclose the secret publicly (which a patent requires you to do). Being free, they also provide a relatively low-cost protection mechanism. 
Crucially, because trade secrets and confidential information lose their protection if they fail to remain secret, valuable or reasonably protected, there must be active steps taken to keep the information secret. The best way to do that is to store it safely (maybe that involves the use of encryption software), ensure that only those people necessary have access to it, and ask whoever you’re disclosing the information to sign an NDA before you give them access to that information.

Doing that will put them on clear notice that you consider that information to be confidential and, if it’s well drafted, it should define the specific permitted purposes for which they can use and evaluate that information.


Got a new business idea and not sure how to protect it?
At LawBite we can find the right Intellectual Property Lawyer for you and your company to help you protect your business idea.

Read more

In closing

Nothing in this article constitutes legal advice on which you should rely. The article is provided for general information purposes only. Professional legal advice should always be sought before taking any action relating to or relying on the content of this article. Our Platform Terms of Use apply to this article.

Related Articles

Read more of our latest blog posts, featuring all the latest legal news, analysis and opinion from our expert lawyers.

blog image
  • By Lawbite Team
  • August 27, 2021
How can I Protect my Assets?

As a business owner, making sure your core assets are protected can be difficult to get right.  As they are often key assets that are crucial to t...

Intellectual Property
blog image
  • By Lawbite Team
  • August 11, 2021
Free e-book: Your Essential Guide to Intellectual Property

Did you know that the Intellectual Property (IP) of a business is sometimes its most important asset? Some of the reasons why protecting your IP is...

Intellectual Property
blog image
  • By Lawbite Team
  • August 06, 2021
Licencing - How does it work in business

Licencing is a way of ‘renting out’ intellectual property like trademarks and copyrights, by licencing under a freestanding agreement or part of an...

Intellectual Property

LawBite can help you

LawBite is on a mission to provide business legal advice that is easier to access, clearer to understand and much cheaper. Our on-line legal advice platform can quickly connect you with expert business legal advice. Our friendly, highly qualified business lawyers, solicitors and mediators will give you the guidance and reassurance that comes from customised legal advice for small and medium sized business.

Whether you are bringing or defending a legal claim, outsourcing work, want a business contract review to ward off disagreements, talk to an expert trademark lawyer, resolve a contractual dispute with methods like mediation and arbitration, or getting your new company set up and on the right footing with a robust shareholder agreement and GDPR standards, we can help you succeed.

defend a claim

Talk to a Lawyer

Book a Call
defend a claim

Essentials Plan