Entrepreneurs make up the best "Idea People" in the World. Always coming up with better mouse traps, faster, lighter more efficient ways to do things, they are a continuously running think tank of innovation and progress. As an entrepreneur, the question and the most stressful aspect of building a business and coming up with innovative, new ways to do something is how do I protect my ideas while still getting them out there on the market? It is the quandry that torments many big thinkers and has them laying awake at night. Capitalism is great, it allows for progress and for an idea to become a big business, but the tough side of a capitalist market is that if your idea is a good one, you can be sure someone else will want in on it. So how do you grow an idea while protecting yourself?
First, you should speak with a qualified patent attorney to ask the questions regarding whether you have patents to a process and should move forward with filing these. Patents can provide an additional layer of protection for a great idea. Don't give up if landing a patent isn't an option, Patents really only give you the right to fight for what's yours and many start up companies don't have the capital to go into a large lawsuit to defend one. That being said, patents should be the first research that the owner of the big idea makes.
Trademarks should be the next research. Speak with or meet with a qualified trademark attorney to discuss filing for a trademark to protect and register your name. The name of your company or brand will eventually become valuable and you do not want to find out after you've developed the market that someone is holding on to your name.
Franchising should be the next research. Franchising requires that you establish the business model first and get a feel for how to sell or monetize your idea, then franchising allows you to replicate your idea into new markets quickly and effectively. Ultimately, as the owner of "the better mousetrap", the best protection you can have is to build your brand and market presence as quickly as possible. Franchising allows an organization to expand with the franchisee'sinvestment in the concept, it combines the leverage of a great business system and idea with that of the energy and motivation of a local business person. Franchising is one of the expansion vehicles that can allow a small business owner to create a significant market in a relatively short period of time and in being "offense-minded" it creates one of the best "defenses" for a great idea you can achieve.