What is the best way to prevent your idea from being copied?

So, you’ve had a great idea and decided to take the plunge and set up your own business.  Or you’ve had a great idea for growing your existing business.  But do you know the best way to prevent your idea from being copied?  The short answer is, you can’t actually prevent someone from copying your idea (unless you know they’re going to do it beforehand).  But, if they do, you can stop them and recoup any losses you have suffered as a result.  How?

The simple answer is: intellectual property.  Intellectual property is a set of rights and legal frameworks intended to stop innovative or creative concepts and ideas from being copied, and to give the originator of the idea the ‘edge’ or head start they need to build a business or, essentially, make money from them.  On that basis, intellectual property provisions are intended to promote innovation and creativity in all areas of business by, essentially, making it financially worthwhile. The best type of IP to prevent your idea from being copied will depend entirely on what that idea is.

How can Intellectual Property help protect your business?

Most of us understand that you cannot simply copy a piece of music, a painting, a photograph or a novel and make money from it,or use someone else’s brand name and pretend your products or services come from that company.  But that premise extends to many more innovative and creative elements that set your business apart from others’.

The key is to work out what it is that makes (or will make) customers come to you and not your competitors, and then identify the intellectual property right or framework that applies. And then, crucially, you must ensure that that intellectual property is captured, preserved and properly protected within your business, and used, if necessary, to ‘freeze’ your competitors out of your market share.

So, how do you work out the best way to prevent your idea from being copied?

Prevent your idea from being copied

Use the four P’s:


1.       Pinpoint your unique selling point(s).  For each and every element of your business, think about what it is that sets you apart from your competitors. Why do (or will) customers come to you and not them?  It is rarely just cost.  Is it the quality of your products?  If so, how are you promoting that?  What features contribute to the level of quality of the products?  If it’s a service, what features of the service make your offering unique?  Could competitors copy the unique elements of your service, or are there bits of it that require knowledge they don’t have?


2.       caPture: Once you know what features of your products, services or business will set it apart from your competitors, try and ‘draw a circle’ around what it is that underlies that competitive edge.  Is it a novel technical feature of a product?  Or an aesthetic quality or design of a product?  Is it a clever piece of software? A user-friendly interface, or the way users can interact with your software?  Is it your knowledge and experience?  Your eye-catching brand or strap line? It could be a combination of several things, but try and capture each one individually.


3.       Preserve: Whatever you have identified in step 2 above should be preserved in some way.  This could require a registration  process, or it may not.  It may need to be kept as a trade secret, or it may be know-how, both of which should be protected within the business (you don’t want your trade secrets walking out of the business with a disgruntled ex-employee, for example).  This is where an IP attorney can help.  Depending on what it is that you need to protect within the business, they will be able to provide advice and guidance as to how best to do that.  Consult an IP attorney as early as possible, even if you don’t think you have anything that can be formally registered, as they will be able to advise on your internal IP strategy and the best way to prevent your idea from being copied.


4.       Protect your IP and ensure that competitors can see that you are a) aware of your intellectual property, and b) prepared to enforce it if necessary.  You can do this by filing patent applications or design applications, where appropriate, and using the patent/design numbers on your products, packaging, marketing material, user manuals and website.   Include a copyright statement within your software code (© plus the company name and the year the software was written). Include this on your website and any other marketing material as well.  Register your trade mark, logo and strap line(s), where appropriate- especially if you plan to market your brand extensively.  Simply owning the Ltd company name and/or the domain name(s) isn’t enough.  Contracts and internal policies should take into account any know-how and trade secrets underpinning your USPs.

IP Strategy

Your IP attorney will be able to advise on the best strategy, based on the importance of each piece of IP to your business. You don’t necessarily need to go to the expense of a ‘belt and braces’ approach here. Instead, ask about the various IP provisions in the UK and worldwide, and how they could be strategically leveraged to match your commercial goals and aspirations, as well as your budget. 

It does not need to cost the earth to adequately protect your USP, whereas exposing it unnecessarily to copying could cost you your market share and even your business. So, to establish the best way to prevent your idea from being copied, consult an IP attorney as early as possible.

For more information, vist our website https:/strachanip.co.uk or contact us:

e: info@strachanip.co.uk

t: +44(0)7714 797135

Share this article on