I have an innovative business idea which I want to protect before starting working on it. How can I do this?

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Although an idea - a business information or valuable know-how - is not protectable by specific intellectual property rights, it can still be secured via contractual mechanisms - by setting up confidentiality obligations. When you meet potential business partners you will have to disclose your idea, explain its intended purpose and describe your expectations concerning the future product or service. It is true that once learned information/know-how cannot be forgotten by your interlocutors. Therefore, it is the best practice to ensure that a person to whom you are about to disclose your ideas signs a confidentiality agreement before the meeting starts. The purpose of a confidentiality agreement is to obtain a guarantee that once you disclose information to another party, the latter will not be able to use it for his purposes or reveal it to someone else without your consent, regardless of the fact whether you have agreed on a partnership or not.

Furthermore, any confidential business information (e.g. an innovative idea) which can be of considerable commercial value to businesses and which provides an enterprise with a competitive edge, may be considered a trade secret. You can protect your trade secrets as long as you do not allow the confidential information to flow into the public domain. In other words, you shall safeguard your idea by confidentiality measures including clauses in employee contracts and the aforementioned confidentiality agreements. The unauthorised use of such information by anyone other than the owner is regarded as an unfair practice and a violation of the trade secret. Depending on the national legal regime, trade secrets are subject to the protection provided for in unfair competition, labour, criminal, or civil law, to name a few.