If I had an idea for a new menswear accessory, where do I go from here legally?

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If I had an idea for a new menswear accessory, where do I go from here legally?

Do I patent the idea or just take a cash out? And how do I go about doing either?

Asked on November 18, 2016 under Business Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

An idea, by itself, is worth nothing unless someone will pay you for it...but there is also no protection for an idea if you disclose it to someone unless they sign a non-disclose/confidentiality agreement *before* you tell/show it to them.
So you have three real options:
1) Manufacture it yourself and sell it--which may or not be practical or feasible, depending on your financing (e.g. how much money you have) and your connections in garment manufacturing and your ability to market your produce.
2) IF it meets the criteria to be patented, which means that it embodies some new discovery, process or technique (not just a new design, for example), you can patent it, which however does require the help of patent attorney and will cost several thousand dollars. If you do successfully patent it, then you own the rights to it and could potentially sell those rights. 
Examples of patentable: "wearable computers," where there are microprocessors in the clothing; a new fabric you evented, with new or better properties; a new type of shoe insert that provides better support and comfort. 
Examples of not patentable: a jacket with a stylish new cut, or a superthin tie--there is no new discovery, process, etc. in there.
3) If you can get them to talk to you, get existing fashion houses, designers, or manufactures to *first* sign a non-disclosure/confidentiality agreement, then show them the idea, with the notion they will buy it from you or fund you making it.


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