Fargo Office

Murrieta Office

August 5, 2021 

How To Keep Someone From Stealing Your Idea

There are four basic methods to protect an idea from being taken by a competitor. The methods include a patent, trademark, copyright, and trade secret.  Using contracts is also a good practice to protect ideas when there are two consenting parties.  The following is a discussion of the four methods. 

  1. Patents: Patents are the ability to prohibit others from making, using, or selling a concept.  A person can obtain a patent on virtually (with some limits) any novel and nonobvious concept.  The patent application of course has many other requirements such as properly disclosing the idea and falls into the parameters of a patent eligible concept.  A few examples of ideas that can be patented include: a new type of window, a new method to install a window, a new type of material for window panes, or a unique shape comprising the window frame.  There are also patent types that cover designs and plants, but are much less common.
  2. Trademarks: Trademarks are the ability to prohibit others from using the name, design, or expression that defines the source or the brand of a product or service.  A person can obtain trademark rights on many different marks but may get rejected if not distinct.  There are four levels of distinctiveness which include: fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, and descriptive.  Merely descriptive trademarks cannot be trademarked.  Examples of trademarks include a business name, a logo, or a slogan.  
  3. Copyrights: Copyrights are the right to control the reproduction, publishing, selling, or distribution of a work in a matter and form.  The work protected with a copyright is some creative form of expression fixed in a tangible medium.  Even if you don’t register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office, you still have common law rights.  Registering a copyright provides significant additional rights to bring legal action against those who illegally copy your work.  Examples of copyrights include a book, a rendition of a musical song, or a painting. 
  4. Trade Secrets: Trade Secrets are essentially secrets that are kept following legal guidelines.  Trade Secrets are secrets that have an economic benefit and are being actively kept secret.  When the legal guidelines are followed and someone somehow illegally steals the Trade Secret, a Trade Secret holder has various remedies, including injunctions and monetary damages.  Examples of Trade Secrets include the recipe for Coke or the recipe for WD-40. 


We at Fargo Patent and Business Law have experience running businesses and understand business.  This unique trait can help bridge the gap between the needs of business and the demands of the legal system.  If you have a question, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Fargo Patent & Business Law, PLLC – info@fargopatentlaw.com – 701-566-7571