All business have trade secrets and additional knowledge they’d rather keep private from their competitors, but this is especially the case when developing a new product. If you’re in the midst of turning an idea or concept into a new product, you’re particularly vulnerable to copycats and imitators. The more innovative your idea is, the more valuable it is, and thus the more risk there is of your intellectual property being leaked.
Fortunately, there are steps for protecting your intellectual property during product development.
Why Patents Matter
Since the America Invents Act (AIA), signed into law in 2011, the U.S. relies on a “first-to-file” (FTF) patent system, as opposed to a “first-to-invent” system. This means that the right to patent an invention belongs to the first person to file the application, not the first person to create the product. In other words, an inventor needs to file a patent application as soon as possible when they are creating a new product.
This gets further complicated by the fact that there are limits on how long an invention can be patented. As soon as you file your application, a 20-year countdown begins; that’s how long your invention is patented, and how long you have to develop, produce, market and sell your product before the patent expires.
This is where provisional patents come in; a provisional patent makes it so that an inventor can establish an early effective filing date without triggering the beginning of the 20-year period that their invention will be protected by the patent. Provisional patents allow inventors and companies to label their new products as “patent pending” for up to 12 months.
As soon as you decide to pursue an idea you have for a new product, it’s important to engage an attorney who can help you navigate the patent system and file a provisional patent so your idea is protected.
Other Protections to Look For in External Parties
Filing a provisional patent is a great first step for protecting your intellectual property, but it is not the end-all-be-all. It’s important to diligently safeguard your concept throughout the entire product development and product launch process, to avoid needing to compete with copycats as soon as you’re out of the gate.
At the most elementary level, any product development company, marketing agency or other external business or consultant that you speak with, let alone engage, should sign a basic confidentiality agreement. Keep in mind, though, that even a confidentiality agreement can’t fully protect you, which is again why patents are so important. A confidentiality agreement will only give you the legal standing to sue for breach of contract if someone is known to have leaked information.
How Enventys Partners Protects Intellectual Property and Confidentiality
At Enventys Partners, we take matters of intellectual property very seriously, and we have a strict process that we follow to ensure that no confidential information is leaked or shared with anyone outside of those who need to know it.
Here is how we establish and maintain confidentiality and protect each client’s intellectual property as we’re working with them to develop new products.
1. We begin by establishing basic confidentiality via a “boilerplate” Confidential Disclosure Agreement (CDA), prior to any discussion of the idea, product, market or technical details.
2. Then we determine if a public disclosure has occurred already. There are a variety of things that constitute a public disclosure. This used to be easier to define, but post AIA, we’ve been advised that any discussion of the product, idea, etc. without an CDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a public disclosure. Any person receiving information has no obligation not to publicly share the info. Once made public, you are also releasing the obligations of people or companies that have signed a CDA or NDA related to the same info.
3. We always advise the client to seek legal council and/or a provisional utility patent filing if a public disclosure has occurred, and one year has not transpired since the disclosure.
4. Upon closing a project, we enter into a PSA (Professional Services Agreement) which does two things (among others):
- Establish a mutual confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement, with a longer term than the CDA.
- Establish an intellectual property ownership agreement, specifying that Enventys Partners and its employees will assign all rights to IP developed for the client.
5. We continually train each staff member to ensure that intellectual property and confidentiality policies are understood and treated appropriately throughout the entire product development process.
- All product development files are housed on secure on-site servers.
- Market research, supplier and vendor communication is all done under the mutual NDA.
- Prototypes, conceptual models, presentations and other collateral (all client materials) are privately stored (until product is publicly available).
- All Enventys Partners facilities are private and visitors are escorted at all times.
- Access to prototyping and storage facilities is secure, with RFID-access control and entry tracking.
- We provide a structured, highly detailed disclosure documentation packet to each client’s patent attorneys, facilitating higher-quality patent filings.
6. During sourcing and manufacturing, Enventys Partners leverages the following:
- Long-standing factory relationships and mutually-established trust.
- A high volume of business with each factory. Interests are aligned and secure practices are employed. If one program suffers a breach of confidentiality, or any issue arises, the supplier risks losing all of our business, not just the client’s program.
- Distributed part manufacturing and final assembly; this means that no one supplier fully understands all aspects of making the product.
- China-based patent and trademark attorneys and IP filings.
We know just how important it is to protect intellectual property and our goal is to make every client feel confident that their information is kept confidential.
To learn more about our product development services, contact us today.