It’s devastating when your business idea gets stolen, especially if it was taken by someone you thought you could trust. You may feel powerless as you stand by and watch them launch the company you’ve always dreamed of starting. But there are things you can do to hold the other person accountable and make your business venture a success despite this setback.
What to Do If Your Business Idea Gets Stolen
Talk to a Lawyer
The first thing you should do when your business idea gets stolen is to contact a lawyer. If you wrote your startup idea or business plan down on paper, it may be protected by copyright law. This means you could potentially sue the person who ripped off your idea for damages.
If one of your contractors or employees stole your idea after signing an NDA or non-compete, you’ll likely have an even stronger case. But you’ll need to speak to a lawyer to see if going to court is a viable option.
Continue With Your Launch
When your business idea gets stolen, you may feel like your chances of being successful are ruined. Your startup no longer feels unique because someone else is doing the same thing. You may wonder how you’ll attract customers and convince them that your product or service is better than the competitor who copied your business plan.
But most accomplished entrepreneurs say that good execution is the key to a successful business, not good ideas. Lots of people have gotten rich by starting service-based businesses like lawn care companies and content marketing agencies. Mowing people’s lawns isn’t a unique or revolutionary business idea. But you can build a thriving business out of it by offering better customer service than your competitors and capturing a dominant share of your local market.
No one can execute your business idea better than you. Don’t let the idea thief win by cancelling your launch. Start your business as planned and try to reframe your thoughts about this setback. See it as a bit of healthy competition and let it motivate you to provide a top-notch customer experience. Dig deeper and learn more about your industry and target market. That way you can provide a better solution and become more successful than the person who stole your idea.
Protect Yourself in the Future
Now that you know there are dishonest people willing to steal business ideas, you can protect yourself better in the future. If you ever have another startup idea you want to pursue, talk to a lawyer before you share it. A lawyer can tell you which aspects of the business plan can be trademarked, patented, or copyrighted so others can’t easily claim your hard work as their own.
It’s also important to vet the people you work with closely. When you bring on co-founders or contractors, ask for references and look into their background carefully. If they have any red flags in their past, they may not be trustworthy enough to share your ideas with.
And even when you find employees and co-founders you believe you can trust, make sure there are contracts in place to make things official. Ironing out the legal details before you get to work is good business practice and will help protect you and your intellectual property.
Have you ever had a business idea stolen? What did you do to recover? Let us know in the comments section below.
Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.