Protecting Intellectual Property
Even though you are exhibiting an early-stage idea, you want to make sure that you do not present anything in your exhibit that will compromise your right to use or pursue the idea in the future. The issue is obvious if you have a technology idea and you want to be able to pursue a patent. The issue can also arise, though, if you have a product name that you might want to seek to be designated as a trade mark. Also, if you have a business idea that will compete based on some special knowledge or business operation (a trade secret), you do not want to give away your “secret sauce” that differentiates your business. The paragraphs below give you some thoughts on how to stay protected.
If you have a technology or process that might be patentable (or might be copyrighted if it is software)…
You do not want to display enough about your technology or process that it becomes considered to be in the public domain.
Do not include drawings, diagrams, or descriptions that show the unique nature or workings of your product or process. You can say what it does – the benefits it provides, for example – but keep secret how it accomplishes this.
If you have software, do not exhibit any code.
If you have named a product or service with a special name or symbol…
You want to indicate that you intend to use this as a brand. You can follow the brand name with the symbol “™” to indicate it is yours, it is original, and that you intend to do business with this name. Later, if you want to pursue this business, you will need to file to register your brand name with the appropriate jurisdictions: states or the federal government, depending on whether you will be doing business across state lines.
If your have designed your business idea around trade secrets…
You will need to maintain the secrecy of your key ideas that create your differentiation. In your exhibit, do not be specific about things that, if copied by competitors, will cost you your competitive edge.
If you have an idea you intend to pursue that might meet the criteria above, check with the SJSU Office of Graduate Studies and Research to learn about procedures for determining whether SJSU has an ownership interest. The university has the expertise and experience to assist you in assessing commercialization and determining whether you might have issues related to protecting Intellectual Property.