Supply chain · 1 August 2018

I pitched a product to another brand but I’m worried my idea has been stolen

pitch product idea stolen
If you are pitching a new idea to a company you should start by sharing a general concept
As a small producer, designer or manufacturer, you might want to approach a larger company with a pitch for a new product. But what happens if your ideas aren’t protected? Grid Law founder David Walker responds to a reader who fears their intellectual property might have unknowingly been handed over.

Question

Please could you help me with some advice.

I have contacted two companies about ideas for a new product that would work well alongside their existing range.

The first company asked what the idea was so I explained. They replied asking me to go into more details and after providing them with more information I heard nothing further from them.

The second company again asked what my idea was. They responded quickly asking for more information and then replied saying they were already working on the same idea. I suggested I could assist with this but again Ive heard nothing more from them.

I don’t have any signed agreements with either company, I just trusted them when I shared my idea.

What should I do next?

Answer

Thank you for your question.

At the moment it doesnt appear that either company has done anything wrong. It will only be when (if) they launch their product we will be able to see if they have incorporated any of your ideas into it.

If, after looking carefully at their new products, you think they have, we can look at this again and see what your options are. We will be looking to see if they have copied any of your intellectual property rights or confidential information.

From a legal perspective it’s very difficult to protect ideas. Your only real option is to keep them confidential. This means you would normally enter into a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) prior to disclosing details of your idea.

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pitching

 

How to protect your intellectual property when pitching to a national retailer

Protecting ideas is always difficult, as intellectual property rights protect the expression of ideas, rather than the idea itself.

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I note that you don’t have any agreements with either company and in any event, large companies will often refuse to sign an NDA. This isnt them being difficult, it’s a necessity for them to protect their business. If they sign an NDA and they’re already working on a new product that’s similar to yours, you could potentially stop them from launching their product and all their investment into it would be wasted.

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Depending on what your product is, there may be various forms of intellectual property you can obtain to protect it.

For example, you may be able to protect how it works with a patent or how it looks with a registered design. If the product isnt fully developed yet, you may just have copyright protection in your plans or drawings of it.

A word of warning regarding patent protection

You can only obtain a patent if the invention is new and hasn’t been disclosed publicly. Depending on what information has been shared with the companies this option may already be lost.


 
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ABOUT THE EXPERT

David Walker is the founder of Grid Law, a firm which first targeted the motorsport industry, advising on sponsorship deals, new contracts and building of personal brands. He has now expanded his remit to include entrepreneurs, aiding with contract law, dispute resolution and protecting and defending intellectual property rights.

HR