Welcome to this week’s video of Simple, Smart & Sexy.
Working on innovation and being a creative machine I never had trouble coming up with outstanding ideas which solved real problems. My only problem was how to protect my ideas while I was either presenting it to clients or sharing them with potential partners.
If you are like me, a creative machine, every time you see a problem you turn it into a business opportunity. The problem is when you come up with (for example) a new bank account idea. You are not a bank, but you have a great idea from which the bank can make millions. How do you get a stake on that business?
For today’s video I’ve invited Serena Minott, Managing Attorney at FlatFeeTrademark.com, who’s a lawyer specialized on IP protection to give us some Smart tips on how to protect an idea. Listen to her on today’s video and come back to get even more tips!
I actually faced the challenge that I posed above just before starting Mariana Ferrari, INC. And it was a challenge for me because I thought: if I’m so good at finding solutions to other businesses problems, how is it that I cannot come up with a great idea to protect my ideas? When the law isn’t there to protect you, you have to be Smart, like Serena says.
1. Become a consultant like us and charge clients for your ideas. Profit from your creative thinking.
2. Have them sign an NDA which covers ideas suggested or originated during “feedback” sessions. Our NDA has this clause, for example: “Feedback. In any exchange of Confidential Information, one party may (but is under no obligation to) provide the other with suggestions, comments, input or other feedback in oral or written form with respect to the other party’s products and services (collectively, “Feedback”). As to such Feedback, each the Client grants the Vendor…”
3. If you have an idea for a Bank, select three Banks which compete. Arrange a meeting with the weakest one, the one that wants to become number 1. Present the idea and your proposal and let them know that they have ten days to give you an answer for yes or no. In case they say they aren’t interested or they fail to give you an answer, let them know that on day X you have a meeting scheduled with Bank B. The worst pressure you can put to a Bank of America Executive is bringing him/her a super idea and letting them know that if they don’t hire you or give you an answer you are going to take it to Citibank (or viceversa).
Serena’s additional tips
Since ideas are generally not protected under patent, trademark or copyright laws, how does one go about protecting their ideas when sharing with others? The most common legal tools are confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements and non-compete/non-circumvention agreements. These agreements help to protect ideas and other intangible assets of your business, such as customer lists, supplier information, plans, formulas, methods and almost anything else you consider a trade secret, confidential or proprietary.
Whether you’re an emerging entrepreneur concerned about sharing your idea with website developers, sales representatives or third-party vendors, or an established company taking on new employees or expanding your venture through business negotiations, confidentiality and non-compete agreements are an integral part of doing business.
But what happens if you don’t have these traditional legal tools in place or readily available? Is it still possible to protect yourself? Yes, if you are smart and exercise precaution. Two tips – get everything in writing and try your absolute hardest to be the first to market! Create a paper trail to document your idea from inception to development. And get a lead in the marketplace before your competition. This is the best way to commercially exploit an idea. After all, what is an idea worth if you never do anything with it? Absolutely nothing.
Protecting your brands in other markets
Because Brazil has become such an interesting market for US and European companies, I asked my good friend Renata Carneiro, partner at Risk Mitigation Brazil, a company specialized in investigations and litigation support for the intellectual property market, what companies have to do to protect their brands in Brazil. I know Brazil and some other Latin American markets are not the best at Intellectual Property protection.
It’s also necessary to take some preventive steps in Brazil if you don’t want your ideas to land in the hands of ill-intentioned people.
First of all, it’s recommended to register your brand or invention with the Brazilian BPTO (www.inpi.gov.br) even if Brazil is not of your immediate interest. The steps to do it and cost are relatively simple and not very expensive (approximately U$ 200).
If you have failed to register the brand and someone has started using it, you will have to go through a thorough investigation on the owner of the brand, the expiration date of the registration and many other details to try to prove that there has been bad faith in the registration of the brand in Brazil. Based on the results of these investigations it could be possible to impede the use of a brand in Brazilian territory.
There have been some very renowned cases that could be a good alert for those companies which want to do business in one of the highest growth economies in the world. Such is the case of a well known American sportswear manufacturer who has been battling with a local competitor in Brazil who has registered the American brand many years ago and has been using it ever since. The problem is that the Brazilian competitor has built such an empire from the brand (which everybody in Brazil thinks it’s the original American brand) that it isn’t interested on selling it back to the American company.
Besides the BPTO registrations, it’s also important to register your .com.br domain. It’s a simple process that you can do through the Institucao Brasileira responsable por dominios da Internet for about $15/year. Registering your .com.br will also save you from some bad experiences like the one AOL had when trying to get into Brazil in the early 2000s.
Brazilians are very innovative and love international brands, so if you are thinking on building a global brand, make sure you register it in Brazil.
If you have any further concerns on how to protect your most valuable and vulnerable asset, just leave a comment for Serena Minott or Renata Carneiro. They’ll be happy to answer them!
Have a Super Week.