Five Easy Ways To Protect Your New Ideas And Intellectual Property

Post written by

Michael Gargiulo

CEO at VPN - We help brands and families protect their best ideas online. Visit us at VPN.com if you need a Virtual Private Network today.

I believe Forbes is one of the best platforms in the world for sharing and developing bold vision and great ideas. These ideas of ours are like sudden and unexpected natural events -- a volcanic eruption, a measurable earthquake or an F5 tornado dropping from the sky. They strike without warning and burst through the noisy clutter constantly running through our minds like a bright meteor shooting across a starless sky. When we are rewarded with a great idea, our first instinct is often to share that idea with someone we know and trust.

What is the first thing we do when we want to share work that is good enough to warrant a patent, copyright or trademark? We typically pull out our smartphones and start texting or calling. We may go on social media sites and eagerly inform our real and internet friends about our idea. Unfortunately, our passion to share and enlighten others overwhelms the fact that the world is now like an open book. The world is ruled by Wi-Fi and the internet of things (IoT).

Ideas and work can be stolen unless you take steps to protect them. This especially applies to concepts involving lucrative inventions, industrial secrets or medical abstractions. If a bright, creative lightbulb suddenly illuminates your world in the middle of the night, consider using one of these five ways to safeguard your idea.

1. Use Only Secure Communication

Many hackers are incredibly sophisticated and talented. Secure communication isn’t just for lawyers. When you text someone over your smartphone, laptop or tablet without using a secure messaging app, a professional hacker could potentially access that message within minutes. Encryption-enabled apps ensure information remains unavailable to hackers or countries that censor journalism. Encrypted communications typically rely on secret numerical codes instead of unsecured text to prevent anyone but the receiver from reading a communication.

2. Use A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

In addition to communicating via encrypted messaging apps, you can use VPNs (which my company helps users secure) to create secure connections to other internet networks. They can prevent people from reading your browsing history over Wi-Fi and facilitate access to websites that authoritarian governments have restricted. A VPN forwards your network activities to its network, which helps stop hackers from peering at your traffic. Businesses and consumers in countries where the government censors websites frequently rely on VPNs to browse restricted sites because VPNs operate servers outside that country.

When you're choosing a VPN, make sure the VPN can be found easily across the internet. Smaller VPN brands can be a haven for bad actors and companies abusing customer data. Larger companies have more of a reputation to lose if something happens. Finding a VPN that can scale with your headcount can be a little difficult. Make sure it offers plans that allow you to add additional users when you are ready. Speed is important -- most large VPNs have locations across the globe, but double-check to make sure they have servers near your headquarters.

3. Time Stamp Your Best Ideas

Time stamping is a great way to ensure your idea came from one source: you. Time stamp that "lightbulb" as soon as possible. You can easily accomplish time stamping by sending yourself an email or text containing the gist of your idea. If your idea requires a longer description, create a time-stamped document, and save it in a designated file. Time stamping shows exactly when you thought of the idea and helps prove that you did not steal an idea that's already "floating" around in cyberspace.

4. Get Your Work Copyrighted Or Trademarked

Copyrighting your work (the copyright symbol is ©) legally protects your intellectual property from being used by anyone else without your permission. Although you can't copyright the idea itself, just about anything else can be copyrighted -- books, films, photographs and software. Copyright laws are designed to protect the creativity and effort you put into developing the product of an original idea. When you copyright something, you are the only entity allowed to reproduce, communicate, sell or transfer ownership of it or develop derivative concepts based on your original work.

Companies use a trademark (the symbol is ™) for a word, logo, phrase or unique symbol that denotes products or services provided by a recognizable business or entity. Trademarks recognizable worldwide include the Coca-Cola and Nike logos. Trademarks legally identify products or services as belonging exclusively to one company. For example, if an entity markets a soda pop using the Coca-Cola logo without first getting permission from Coca-Cola, it will likely find itself penalized for trademark infringement.

For more information about copyrighting, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website. For more information about obtaining a trademark or to search the trademark database, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.

5. Communicate Your Idea (After You Protect It)

Now that you have worked to ensure that no one can easily steal your idea, you want to effectively educate the public and hopefully receive financial support for marketing your idea. Create a website devoted exclusively to your vision and thoughts that people can access easily on laptops, tablets and cellphones. Not all ideas should be shared so quickly, but these additional steps help show legitimate use as you bring your work to life. They can also bolster your claims for a patent, trademark or copyright.

Intellectual Property Theft (IPT) is not just a buzzword. This crime is common across the world in the 21st century, especially in places like China -- CNBC reports one in five North American companies surveyed had their IP stolen by Chinese companies in the last year. I believe combating IP theft should now be a top priority of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the CIA. Avoid being a victim of intellectual property theft by following these simple steps and proactively securing the very best ideas you and your organization have.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?
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I believe Forbes is one of the best platforms in the world for sharing and developing bold vision and great ideas. These ideas of ours are like sudden and unexpected natural events -- a volcanic eruption, a measurable earthquake or an F5 tornado dropping from the sky. They strike without warning and burst through the noisy clutter constantly running through our minds like a bright meteor shooting across a starless sky. When we are rewarded with a great idea, our first instinct is often to share that idea with someone we know and trust.

What is the first thing we do when we want to share work that is good enough to warrant a patent, copyright or trademark? We typically pull out our smartphones and start texting or calling. We may go on social media sites and eagerly inform our real and internet friends about our idea. Unfortunately, our passion to share and enlighten others overwhelms the fact that the world is now like an open book. The world is ruled by Wi-Fi and the internet of things (IoT).

Ideas and work can be stolen unless you take steps to protect them. This especially applies to concepts involving lucrative inventions, industrial secrets or medical abstractions. If a bright, creative lightbulb suddenly illuminates your world in the middle of the night, consider using one of these five ways to safeguard your idea.

1. Use Only Secure Communication

Many hackers are incredibly sophisticated and talented. Secure communication isn’t just for lawyers. When you text someone over your smartphone, laptop or tablet without using a secure messaging app, a professional hacker could potentially access that message within minutes. Encryption-enabled apps ensure information remains unavailable to hackers or countries that censor journalism. Encrypted communications typically rely on secret numerical codes instead of unsecured text to prevent anyone but the receiver from reading a communication.

2. Use A Virtual Private Network (VPN)

In addition to communicating via encrypted messaging apps, you can use VPNs (which my company helps users secure) to create secure connections to other internet networks. They can prevent people from reading your browsing history over Wi-Fi and facilitate access to websites that authoritarian governments have restricted. A VPN forwards your network activities to its network, which helps stop hackers from peering at your traffic. Businesses and consumers in countries where the government censors websites frequently rely on VPNs to browse restricted sites because VPNs operate servers outside that country.

When you're choosing a VPN, make sure the VPN can be found easily across the internet. Smaller VPN brands can be a haven for bad actors and companies abusing customer data. Larger companies have more of a reputation to lose if something happens. Finding a VPN that can scale with your headcount can be a little difficult. Make sure it offers plans that allow you to add additional users when you are ready. Speed is important -- most large VPNs have locations across the globe, but double-check to make sure they have servers near your headquarters.

3. Time Stamp Your Best Ideas

Time stamping is a great way to ensure your idea came from one source: you. Time stamp that "lightbulb" as soon as possible. You can easily accomplish time stamping by sending yourself an email or text containing the gist of your idea. If your idea requires a longer description, create a time-stamped document, and save it in a designated file. Time stamping shows exactly when you thought of the idea and helps prove that you did not steal an idea that's already "floating" around in cyberspace.

4. Get Your Work Copyrighted Or Trademarked

Copyrighting your work (the copyright symbol is ©) legally protects your intellectual property from being used by anyone else without your permission. Although you can't copyright the idea itself, just about anything else can be copyrighted -- books, films, photographs and software. Copyright laws are designed to protect the creativity and effort you put into developing the product of an original idea. When you copyright something, you are the only entity allowed to reproduce, communicate, sell or transfer ownership of it or develop derivative concepts based on your original work.

Companies use a trademark (the symbol is ™) for a word, logo, phrase or unique symbol that denotes products or services provided by a recognizable business or entity. Trademarks recognizable worldwide include the Coca-Cola and Nike logos. Trademarks legally identify products or services as belonging exclusively to one company. For example, if an entity markets a soda pop using the Coca-Cola logo without first getting permission from Coca-Cola, it will likely find itself penalized for trademark infringement.

For more information about copyrighting, visit the U.S. Copyright Office website. For more information about obtaining a trademark or to search the trademark database, visit the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.

5. Communicate Your Idea (After You Protect It)

Now that you have worked to ensure that no one can easily steal your idea, you want to effectively educate the public and hopefully receive financial support for marketing your idea. Create a website devoted exclusively to your vision and thoughts that people can access easily on laptops, tablets and cellphones. Not all ideas should be shared so quickly, but these additional steps help show legitimate use as you bring your work to life. They can also bolster your claims for a patent, trademark or copyright.

Intellectual Property Theft (IPT) is not just a buzzword. This crime is common across the world in the 21st century, especially in places like China -- CNBC reports one in five North American companies surveyed had their IP stolen by Chinese companies in the last year. I believe combating IP theft should now be a top priority of the U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI and the CIA. Avoid being a victim of intellectual property theft by following these simple steps and proactively securing the very best ideas you and your organization have.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I qualify?

CEO at VPN - We help millions of consumers and businesses filter hundreds of VPNs to find the best VPN for them.