Are you about pitching an idea to investors in South Africa and you are scared of losing your idea? If YES, here are 10 best ways to protect your business idea in South Africa.

Coming up with a brilliant, cash-spinning idea is not always easy. Unfortunately, there are always people lurking around the corner looking for business ideas to steal and profit from.

It is always easy to get your business idea stolen in the process of sourcing for funds, creating product prototypes, or during the process of business documentation. To avoid this, you have to take some preventive measures to prevent your business ideas from getting snatched off your hands.

10 Best Ways to Protect your Business idea in South Africa

1. Make Sure You Register Your Business: Registering your business would make it eligible to be recognized as a corporate entity with its own assets. It would also give you access to all the necessary licenses that you need to make your business legitimate.

2. Trademark Your Idea: Trademarking involves developing a unique phrase, logo, word, design, symbol, or image for your business or product. If anyone decides to use these elements, then you can take legal action against them.

Trademarking your product designs, images and logos can keep people from using them without authorization. To trademark your product in South Africa, you can visit www.cipc.co.za .

3. Copyright Your Work: You can protect your creative work by registering it as a copyright. Copyright helps to protect your intellectual property and ideas from unauthorized copying, and prescribes the steps that must be taken should anyone decide to copy your work.

4. Apply for a Patent: You can also apply for a patent for your product or business idea with CIPRO, the organization responsible for registering patents in South Africa.

When you apply for a patent with CIPRO, they check to ensure that the product idea hasn’t been patented by someone else in South Africa or in other countries in the past, then they issue you with a patent certification that shows that you now have exclusive rights to the product/idea, and no one else can use them without your permission.

You can register your patent in South Africa by visiting www.cipro.gov.za. It costs between R7,000 and R10,000 to file a patent in South Africa and afterwards, you also have to pay an annual maintenance fee of about R200.

5. Sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement: When pitching your business ideas to potential investors, you should have them sign a non-disclosure or confidentiality agreement. This document is legally binding, and prevents any of the investors from using your ideas without your permission.

A non-disclosure confidentiality agreement allows you to take legal action against investors who may go against this agreement.

6. Mark Documents with Appropriate Notices: You can opt for a simple business protection approach like marking your business plans and other related documents with the word ‘Confidential’ or ‘Proprietary’. This serves as a legal warning to readers that the contents of the document are not to be copied or disclosed to third parties.

7. Protect Your Computers: You also have to protect your computers, email accounts, and social media accounts from unauthorized access by hackers. Hackers can easily break into your accounts to steal important information about your business or product ideas for themselves.

8. Sign Non-Compete Agreements: If you need to hire someone during the process of developing your business idea, for instance, if you need to hire someone to develop a product prototype for you, you should have them sign a non-compete agreement.

This agreement prevents them from setting up a business similar to yours or using your business ideas in any way. You can take legal action against them if they go against this agreement.

9. Work-for-Hire Agreements: You should also have the people you hire to develop your product sign work-for-hire agreements to show that you only hired them to work for you, and they are not responsible for developing or formulating any of the ideas.

This can help to protect your business in the future when it becomes successful and someone comes up to say that they were involved in developing the business or product idea.

10. Hire a Lawyer: Nothing beats professional legal advice when trying to protect your business idea from intellectual property or idea theft. A lawyer would be able to prescribe some adequate measures to take in order to protect your business.

Sometimes, when people know that you have a lawyer at your beck and call, they simply avoid messing with you in order to avoid legal battles and consequences, so always throw in some subtle hint about the fact that you have a lawyer at your beck and call during pitches and business meetings to keep intending business idea or intellectual property thieves from going through with the plans because they know that there would be legal consequences.