Before you take any further steps to develop your product or invention, you need to determine if you can realistically generate revenue from your product. Is the product something people will want or something people truly need? Are you solving a pervasive problem? Are the target users the general populace or niche population? Is there a similar product on the market that customers are already buying or will you have to attract the early adopter demographic?
How will you protect your product?
Should you pursue patent protection for your invention? Not all products will be patentable as defined in the patent law. Your product needs to be patentable subject matter; for example, you cannot patent an abstract idea or a product of nature. Your product, as claimed in your patent application, needs to be novel and not obvious when compared to prior art.
Can you use trade secret protection for your invention? Trade secret information must not be generally known (i.e. it is only known and used by you) or reasonably ascertainable (i.e. it cannot be reverse engineered or accessed by somebody else). It also must be of economic value. To invoke trade secret protection, you need to create procedures to maintain the secrecy and confidentiality of your information.
Does your product fall under copyright protection as a literary or artistic work? A copyright protects the particular way that people expressed themselves and gives the owner the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the original creative work.
The American Marketing Association defines brand as the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or services as distinct from those of other sellers.” You need to develop branding that defines your product, invention or company to the public. However, you also need to be diligent to ensure that your branding is not confusingly similar to another’s branding. After you have spent time and money building your perfect brand – – what is your next step? You need to protect your investment through federal trademark registration. Federal registration gives an owner the exclusive use of their marks nationwide and can prevent anyone from subsequently using a “confusingly” similar mark.
When interacting with other companies such as strategic partners, vendors, or licensees, nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements (NDAs) should be agreed upon before any proprietary information is given. If you have employees, confidential information should be protected by non-disclosure terms in the employee agreement. Those terms should spell out consequences for employees who wrongly disclose proprietary information. Employee agreements may also contain non-compete clauses with reasonable restrictions and require employees to assign any intellectual property developed during their employment.