NEW YORK (CNNfn) - Dear Jane, I have a detailed business plan for a new business, but I'm afraid to show it to investors because someone may steal my idea. What should I do?|
It is scary to be shopping your baby around, but there is a common document designed to attempt to protect your concept. Many reputable investors or corporate contacts are willing to sign what is called a non-disclosure" agreement. This legal agreement, tailored to fit your needs, basically says that if they sign it, they agree to keep your idea confidential.
Although it's impossible to trademark or copyright an idea, the document would help you in court if someone did steal it and you ended up suing him or her. If you don't have an attorney to draft a non-disclosure, you can find one in several self-help legal books published by the Nolo Press.
Be sure to keep track of and number the plans you distribute. You should also ask people to return the plan after they have read it, so it doesn't just float around from person to person.
Try to copyright, patent or trademark as many elements of the business as you can, including any trade secrets, the product name, Web site address, etc. The more legal protections you have in place, the less likely people are going to mess with your idea.