It can be difficult to know how much to reveal about your business during the pitch process. If you’re pitching in a public forum, should you risk giving your original ideas away? Is the exposure and possible investment funding worth the risks?
During the pitch process you are necessarily disclosing information about your business plans in order to impress a potential investor or client. The need to find the right balance between disclosure and secrecy is crucial for the protection of your intellectual property.
In situations where a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can be used, that might be a solution to the problem. However, in practice it’s unlikely that potential investors would be willing to sign NDAs. It’s more to your advantage that they hear what you have to say than it is to theirs to listen to you.
Statistically there are a lot more people looking for investment than there are investors. Moreover, while non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) protect you don’t take too much comfort from the mere signing of a confidentiality agreement.
Beware of others stealing your best ideas
If you have an idea which the other party could implement better than you – such as the situation that arose for the Winklevoss twins who shared their concept for Facebook with Mark Zuckerburg – then avoid going to them for investment if you have a potentially lucrative idea. Or if it is essential that you communicate the information to a third party without the benefit of an NDA in order to progress it, could you perhaps reveal the broad idea without going into too much detail?.
Another aspect that is worth considering is conducting a background search about the potential investor or client. Checking their reputation might provide useful ways to assess how much information is safe to reveal to them.
It’s important to be mindful of your business before divulging information. With some ideas you simply shouldn’t discuss them without an NDA if loss of confidentiality would lose you the opportunity to patent the concept. What if you have an idea for a product-based concept – such as Mandy Haberman’s Anywayup Cup? You would lose the opportunity to patent if you don’t use an NDA. Mandy Haberman could not have succeeded had she not patented the cup before going to market.
Patent pending applications
In practice, it is a mistake to go to an investor without having first applied for patent protection. Once you have a patent pending, you could proceed to raise funds. The costs associated with such first filing are not as high as you might assume.
The initial filing gives you 12 months’ protection worldwide, and an inventor who has intellectual property like a patent application, will be more attractive to a potential investor.
Names need protecting
Another issue to consider is protecting the name you want to use for new products and services you’ll be discussing while pitching in public. If you haven’t protected the name you are at risk. This is because names are not protected by copyright and a member of the audience could easily steal the idea, register the name as a trade mark and gain the benefit of all the publicity you generate.
Do take advice on names as there are many pitfalls for the unwary. If the name you are using is not legally effective, and suitable for your business, you might waste your resources in applying to register trade marks.
In conclusion, any ideas or names you have for a new business concept or product that you might want to divulge during a pitch are worth discussing with an IP lawyer before divulging them to others. Our IP Audit offering is the ideal way to access such advice. It includes a search, templates, and videos too.to help you protect the future value of your ideas, products and services.
Shireen will be discussing this topic on the panel at the 4th Drum Brief Encounters Conference on 20th of October. It’s at the Congress Centre in London. You can book at http://briefencountersthedrum.com./.