My favorite CBC show is Dragons’ Den, and for those of you who don’t know the show, it is a reality TV series where entrepreneurs are given a few minutes to pitch their business or business idea to five Canadian millionaires for their investment. It is fascinating to see how these Dragons evaluate each pitch and decide whether or not to invest in them. When business pitches are made for novel products, one of the questions that the Dragons often ask is whether there are any proprietary rights, such as a patent, for the product.
One thing you may not know is that if you pitch your idea to the Dragons (or to other potential investors), your pitch may actually prevent you from obtaining certain intellectual property rights if you haven’t filed an application for them yet. There are at least two intellectual property rights that are sensitive to prior disclosure, the first of these is patent rights, and the other is industrial design rights.
A patent is an exclusive right to use, sell or make your invention in a particular country or countries in exchange for disclosing your new invention. Because a patent is awarded to a new and non-obvious invention, disclosing it to the Dragons (or to the public) may cause you to lose your right to patent the invention (after all, once you disclose an idea, it is no longer new anymore).
Industrial design rights are similar to patents, and provide you with an exclusive right to make, use and sell original visual features of shape, configuration, pattern, ornament or any combination of these applied to a finished article made by hand, tool or machine. Again, in disclosing your original design it would lose its originality, and you might lose your right to the design.
So, before you pitch your brilliant idea in front of the Dragons, and risk losing your potential intellectual property rights, you should consult with an intellectual property lawyer or other IP professional, who can help ensure that your valuable asset is protected.