How do a I secure a business idea and its name so someone else can’t take it?

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How do a I secure a business idea and its name so someone else can’t take it?

How do a I secure a buisness idea and its name so someone else can’t take it?

Asked on March 16, 2012 under Business Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You can't secure an idea--ideas are not patentable or copyrightable. There is no way to prevent someone else from independentally coming up with an idea. You can protect yourself from potential business partners or investors, by having them sign a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement prior to sharing your idea with them, but you cannot protect yourself against anyone who has not signed some contract or agreement with you, vis-a-vis the idea, if they happen to come up with it themselves.

You can trademark a name, such as a for a product or service (technically, the latter is a "service mark," but it's treated the same as a trademark), but only if you have a bona fide intent to actually use the name in commerce in the relatively near future (or are using it now, of course). You could also register your business name and potentially protect it as well, such as by a trade/service mark, if it otherwise meets the criteria for such protection. (You can find the requirements at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or PTO, website.)


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