It’s not uncommon for small designers and inventors to be contacted by large companies who are interested in hearing pitches for new products.
There are some ways to protect your design or invention before the meeting.
- Non-Disclosure Agreement: Before the meeting you can propose a non-disclosure agreement with the company. This is a short contract that says the company will not use any information obtained during the meeting for any purpose other than evaluating whether they’d like to pursue a business relationship. If the company then uses the information gained to make their own competing product, you may be able to sue for breach of contract.
- Registering Your Copyright: If the company is looking to buy a design, you can apply for registration of your copyright in the design before the meeting. This will help tee-up a case for copyright infringement if the company uses your design without paying you.
- Applying for a Patent: If you’re an inventor, having a patent application on file can be a strong bargaining chip with the company. A patent can guarantee that they’re the exclusive seller of the invention and the risk of a future infringement suit is a strong deterrent from copying your invention without permission.
- Google the Company: Folks on the internet are not shy when they think they’ve been ripped off by a big company. Googling whether the company has a history of taking other people’s ideas can help you protect yourself before you walk through their front door. If they have a history of taking other people’s idea, don’t take the meeting.