Sales & Marketing

7 ways to protect your brilliant new business idea

4 min read

18 October 2011

Your about to bring your new product to market – but you're worried a competitor is going to swoop in and copy you. Serial entrepreneur Clive Jackson gives seven tips on protecting your idea.

Clive Jackson is the marketing entrepreneur behind marketing agencies including Global Beach and AutoTorq. His latest venture is Victor, a private jet-share community, which allows members to book spare seats on private flights already chartered by other travellers. 

Here are Jackson’s seven essential tips to protect your new business ideas:

  1. Whether you are providing a service or developing a new product, you need to be able to succinctly articulate exactly what it does, who your target customer is, and what its benefits are if you are going to successfully protect your idea. The better you can define your product, the easier it is to ascertain what you are bringing to market and to identify your competitors. Try to succinctly describe your new service or product to an audience that is not reliant on your infectious and enthusiastic delivery. Trusted friends and family are a good place to start. You could also let someone else have a go at writing the product or service description, as they will have the advantage of a distanced perspective. 
  2. Research is an essential task as it enables you to determine whether you are bringing something unique to market or instead creating a variation on something that already exists. The internet is a great place to start. You can begin by looking into whether somebody else is offering something similar, and can then start to build a competitive landscape, to identify what’s different and or unique about your new venture.
  3. To protect your business in the long term, you need to make sure that your business is sustainable and able to evolve. Talk to prospective customers to find out whether there is sufficient demand for your new product or service. If your idea is totally new this conversation will help you to validate the gap in the market that you are hoping to fill. However, it is important to listen and adapt. You may find new consumer demands and opinions emerge which inspire you further and help you carve out more of a market niche for yourself. 
  4. Setting realistic business goals is an essential step in determining what you are able to protect and how you can protect your idea. Is your idea the first of its kind, or is it a different variation on a theme? Are you going to restrict your business plan to the UK or are you planning to expand your business overseas? By answering these questions you can determine the type of patent or copyright that you should be applying for and how you can position your idea. Remember that product and business protection processes differ in Europe and the US, so it is important to seek professional advice. 
  5. Bring your idea to market as quickly as possible and don’t allow yourself to hesitate while the market edges on. Too many entrepreneurs fail to turn their business ideas into reality, allowing others to lead the way instead.
  6. If you’re applying for a patent yourself, don’t be surprised if the patent application process costs around £10,000 and takes around 18 months to complete. This lengthy stage of protecting your business needs to be worked into your business plan.
  7. Drawing up patent documents is a very technical job and requires expertise so speak to the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents about employing a patent agent. An initial consultation may free and should reveal how much it will cost to draw up a patent and how long it will take.