How do we prevent others from stealing our business idea? This is a question we often get. The "simple" answer is that it is difficult to protect a business concept. As innovation becomes more and more business model driven, the issue is relevant for most companies. However, with traditional IP it is difficult to protect a business model. We need to take a broader perspective and with the help of innovation sciences it is quite possible to create long-term control based on the business concept and business model of the company. A basic prerequisite is that we must know the elements of a business concept and the business model to be able to create long-term control around valuable parts of your business model.
The question of protecting a business idea is probably one of the most common issues that professionals in the IP sector encounter. Most people with significant IP experience would probably say that it is not possible. However, this is largely dependent on how industry professionals are trained - on the basis that IP is strictly legally defined. But this is not entirely correct. To be able to provide a more accurate answer, we need to understand the basic concept of business models and their parts and to raise our understanding of IP beyond the legal domain. This requires defining what a business model is, for example :
"A business model explains the rationale behind how an organization creates, delivers and captures value" - Osterwalder,
According to this definition, a business model is, in many ways, the management's description of the value that a company is trying to create. Like many other things that are aggregated and formulated at this level, it is somewhat imprecise and fuzzy. Nevertheless, it is perceived as a reasonable, or even necessary, approach to compete in the market. Most examples (Uber, Spotify and App Store) which are examples of disruption are often described as the result of introducing a new business model. However, it is rare that an individual company will be completely alone, whether it is disruptive or just innovative. For example, there are several companies that offer a similar (if not the same) offer as Spotify. There are also several competing counterparts to the App Store via other platforms. So the question of "can we protect our business concept?" is reasonable, but not properly worded.
In order to be able to protect or exert control over a business concept in relation to the commercial landscape, the business model needs to be broken down into smaller components. Therefore, the question should be reworded to “To what extent can parts of my business idea be protected and which parts are critical to protect in the future?" Once this question has been asked and answered, you must consider which innovation legal instruments for protection and control are applicable in the specific situation.
Our team in Stockholm is running a seminar on this topic on 10 March. To book, please click here.