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Q: selling an idea to a company ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: selling an idea to a company
Category: Business and Money > Consulting
Asked by: vizslamom-ga
List Price: $30.00
Posted: 04 Feb 2003 13:47 PST
Expires: 06 Mar 2003 13:47 PST
Question ID: 157327
I have an idea that I think would be profitable. However, I don't want
to start a company myself. I do think that a company that already
exists could implement this idea easily and increase sales. How do I
approach this company with my idea without risking it being "stolen"?
Subject: Re: selling an idea to a company
Answered By: clouseau-ga on 04 Feb 2003 14:30 PST
Hello vizslamom,

Thank you for your question. 

Although there is always a risk of your idea being stolen when
presented to another entity, you a prudent to research this before
making a presentation and preparing yourself to minimize this

I searched several ways for you, first using the terms

Although the following page is UK based, it offers good suggestions
for preparation:

"Protecting ideas

If a business or individual has an idea they are trying to sell which
is not yet a physical entity, it still needs to be protected.

Intellectual property is defined as the specific knowledge associated
with any idea that would enable it to be used for gain. In order to
begin protection of an idea or invention it should be expressed in a
way that would enable it to be bought or sold like any other

Intellectual property is usually expressed through:

Drawings and sketches 
Written technical descriptions 
Prototype (although three-dimensional, this is a device to help
illustrate the idea)

Before a company or individual discusses any new idea or product they
should consider legal protection. Disclosure of an idea could mean
difficulties in protecting it at a later date.

A business may need to talk to others whose opinion will help them
sell an idea, such as:

Marketing experts 

Anyone talking about a new idea with an outside party should ensure
that a confidentiality agreement is in place before beginning
discussions (A sample form can be downloaded free from the Help &
Resources Section). Caution is important when discussing any new

Another good explanation is on this page:

Sharing and Protecting Your Ideas  By Kirk Hennefer


What every inventor should know about sharing and protecting ideas.

This is a very good introduction to why you need to show your idea and
ways to protect it and includes:


It is important to remember that a patent is an offensive weapon.  It
allows you to sue someone for making a device that you believe
infringes on your patent.  It will then be decided in the courts
whether that is truly the case.  The US patent office does not
guarantee the validity of a patent.  "Of all the patent claims brought
before the courts, 80% are overturned or held invalid."  (Don Debelak)
 The cost of perusing someone in court starts at about $20,000 and can
end up costing much more than that before the case is settled.

Disclosure Document Program 

The US Patent Office has a disclosure document program where you can
submit a description of your idea.  The information will be kept on
file for two years.  Disclosure documents provide evidence of the date
of your ideas for an invention.
For more information see

Keep a Notebook 

Keep a notebook for each project.  It should be hard bound where pages
cannot be inserted or removed.  Number the pages if they are not
numbered.  This notebook is like a journal or diary of everything you
do with regard to the project.  Entries should be dated.  Record the
names of people you talked to.  Tell each person that you want to keep
your idea confidential and make an entry in your notebook that you
made that statement.  This notebook will have value beyond protecting
your idea when you later talk to manufacturers, distributors,
investors etc.

Non-Disclosure Agreements 

A Non-disclosure agreement shows that the person you talk to
understands that the information is to be kept confidential because it
requires their signature to that effect.  Keep in mind that the people
you talk to may later be key business contacts.  You don't want to
convey to them that you are distrustful and require a legal agreement
before you will talk to anyone about your idea.  After filing
disclosure-documents and talking about your idea, you may choose to
have a non-disclosure agreement with the consultant before going
forward with the project..."

The New York Small Business Resource Center also has a chapter on

  Whether you are already established or are thinking of starting a
business, you may want to also consider some intellectual property
issues. If you have developed, or are going to develop, ideas for
products, company names, etc. there are some steps you can take to
protect your rights to these ideas.

In addition to consulting with a patent or intellectual property
attorney, read the following sections for a brief discussion of
trademarks, patents, and copyrights."

They continue to discuss the options of Trademark, Patent and

Two of their recommended links include:

US Patent and Trademark Office

and The Library of Congress Copyright Office

You will find a wealth of information on these pages.

Although there are numerous pages on the Internet dealing with
protecting your ideas, most if not all include the same or similar
information. So just for a brief recap, document your work and
timelines of developing your idea. Keep a journal, drawings and notes
of conversations you have had with others. Learn about Trademark,
Copyright and Patent and see how they apply to you individual

You may wish to consult a lawyer for proper legal advice on protecting
your idea, drawing up documents, performing patent searches to assure
that your idea is original and to guide you through these processes.
As mentioned in the disclaimer below, Google Answers is for General
Information and is not a replacement for professional advice.

I also caution you if you should choose to consult with companies that
advertise selling inventions for inventors to manufacturing companies.
While some of these may well be aboveboard, many are not. Do check out
the reputation of any company you consider to act as a broker for you,
if you choose to go that route.

Searching for [invention +broker] I found these articles of interest
at the United Inventors Association:
How to Find an Honest Invention Broker By Jack Lander
Articles on the Invention Promotion Industry
How Does The Invention Scam Work?
I think I have been ripped off. What do I do now?  By Bob Lougher

This site has a wealth of information for you.

Brown & Michaels

Invention Marketing Companies: Are they for real? 

"Invention Marketing Companies" are companies which claim to represent
inventors in taking their ideas to companies. We have had many
inventors come to our firm over the years who have been "taken" by
these firms. The lucky ones only got to the first stage, the unlucky
ones lost tens of thousands of dollars."

Finally, I searched [non-disclosure +agreement] for you to have
examples of documents that will help protect you:

Mira Consulting has an example here:

United Inventors Association has their examples here:


Offers an overview of agreements here:

You can find many more examples and discussions from the result of
this search:

Adding "invention" to the search narrows the results down slightly and
targets your needs a little more exactly:

Search Strategy:

protecting +ideas
non-disclosure +agreement

I trust my research has provided you with a good start learning how to
protect your idea and the options and tools that are available to you.
If a link above should fail to work or anything require further
explanation, please do post a Request for Clarification and I will be
pleased to assist further.


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