2. Minimize disclosure
Talking about your IP before you protect it will increase the risk of imitation and counterfeiting and may prevent you from protecting your IP in some countries. To avoid that, keep inventions and other sensitive information as trade secrets while you seek formal IP protection. Only disclose this information on a need-to-know basis, both internally and externally. Confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements can help protect your IP from premature disclosure.
Potential risks if you do not minimize disclosure
- Someone may copy your idea in a foreign market.
- If you show your invention at a conference or tradeshow, someone can "steal" your idea.
- If the information you provide is considered a public disclosure, this may prevent you from getting a patent or an industrial design registration.
Steps to help you minimize the disclosure of your IP
These precautionary measures will help you protect your IP as a trade secret and allow you some protections that are subject to local trade secret laws.
Step 1: Assess and define the minimum information you need to share
Assess and define the minimum information you are required to share with your employees and partners and with outsiders. Be very selective when you reveal information. Only disclose it on a need-to-know basis.
Step 2: Protect your trade secrets internally
- Record their existence and track the names of people who have access to them.
- Restrict the distribution of the information with confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements.
- Keep the information locked and/or encrypted electronically.
Step 3: Protect your trade secrets externally
- Assess the timing of sharing information: Don't disclose information before filing your patent application or industrial design registration.
- Establish confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements with your employees and partners and with outsiders until you have secured formal IP protection.
- Use supply agreements or demonstrate outputs rather than disclosing the trade secrets themselves.