How do I protect my idea before launching my web-service?


I have a unique idea about a web-service.
How do I protect against duplicating my idea before launching?
I'm afraid I'd end up rivaling against massive number of competitors like Groupon does now.
I'm a Burmese national living and working in Singapore. My service will be available globally.

Ideas Legal Patent Copyright

asked Oct 11 '11 at 11:34
Moe Sweet
141 points
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  • no ideas original. someone out there has probably done it or doing it already. it's quite silly to protect something that doesn't exist or have any economic value. – Kim Jong Woo 12 years ago
  • Protect it by making it better than anyone else could :] – Ryan Doom 12 years ago

2 Answers


Simply put, there's no way to protect your idea.

There's nothing you can do to stop Groupon or Google or Facebook from executing on an idea you've had. This is true regardless of whether they see your app and decide to copy the idea exactly, or whether they come up with a very similar idea on their own. Ideas themselves are only worth the back of the napkin they're scribbled on.

In order to really protect yourself and carve out a chunk of marketshare for yourself, you need to execute on that idea. Now.

Technically -- depending on your jurisdiction -- you can file for a patent and be granted some legal protection for certain components of your idea. However, software patents have a very tenuous history in the courts, so it still might be very difficult for you to win anything if Groupon or others decide to take your idea. Similarly, you can require that everyone you work with signs an NDA and a non-compete contract, saying that they won't share your ideas or try to take the ideas themselves. However, these also tend to be weakly enforced, at least in the United States The most important thing to remember is that ideas tend to be vague, abstract and easily disseminated. That's what makes them powerful. From a business standpoint, you can't really own an idea, any more than you can own a thought or phrase. What you can own is a business, a piece of software, a motivated team of employees, and a market full of satisfied customers. If you're worried about losing your idea, you need to turn it into these things as fast as you can.

answered Oct 11 '11 at 12:26
Hartley Brody
1,317 points
  • Thank you Hartley. Hope answer my upcoming questions as well. :) – Moe Sweet 12 years ago
  • Ill advised I'd say! "there's no way to protect your idea"... what? You don't even know his ideas and your basically telling him to forget it? Moe: If you think you have a patentable methodology, then go for it and file ASAP! I've done work for startups all my life and many were dead by competitors only a few years after launch. On the other hand, others who invested in patents are fully protected and have a few key advantages. – Jeach 12 years ago
  • Definitely not telling him to forget it. I'm telling him to turn it into something more tangible that's easier to protect. Ideas are fleeting and ephemeral. Hard to protect by themselves. – Hartley Brody 12 years ago


Agree that the most meaningful legal protection you will find is in non disclosure and noncompete contracts. There are plenty of example contracts here: However, they are no substitute for the legal advice of your own attorney.

In practice though when it comes to protecting an idea of a startup, your best defense is SPEED. Launch quickly, capture market rapidly and leave your competitors a step behind. Yes, Groupon has a ton of imitators but because it grew with breackneck speed its almost impossible for another startup to catch up even though its business model can easily be replicated. Scale up slowly and you invite imitators to overtake you.

answered Nov 28 '11 at 12:49
11 points

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