Every great business starts with a "perfect" idea. In the fast moving, dog-eat-dog world of corporate business, however, ideas are stolen, duplicated and imitated as soon as they are conceived. If you have that million dollar idea, how can you go about protecting it while still attracting the attention of prospective investors?
Your first step, before presenting your idea to any companies or investors, is to hire a lawyer experienced in patent laws for your industry. Have this lawyer help you patent your idea, if applicable, which is a time-consuming and expensive process. Depending on the complexity of the idea, it can cost you $1,000 to $100,000. Patents generally take over two years to clear and last approximately 20 years once in effect. As your patent clears, instruct your lawyer to write a nondisclosure agreement, which forces companies to promise they won't copy your idea, under penalty of litigation. Penalties should be strict but fair, as to not frighten off investors. Penalties in nondisclosure agreements are usually monetary.
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