Learn an Olympian lesson – use a non disclosure agreement to protect your ideas

Olympians are known for the meticulous nature of their training and preparation. They have one chance every 4 years to achieve their dream.

As a result, in the build up to the main event, every scenario, statistic and historical lesson is poured over in minute detail in order to ensure nothing is left to chance when it comes to achieving success on the big day.

It may seem surprising therefore that an important legal lesson for those setting up a business would come from two Olympians who didn’t take steps to protect their business idea in the early stages.

Do you remember ConnectU or Facebook?

If you have seen the film ‘The Social Network’, charting the rapid and meteoric rise of a website called Facebook, you’ll know the story of Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. These Harvard and Oxford educated Olympian rowers sued Mark Zuckerberg over the allegation that he stole their idea for a social networking site which allowed users to add people as friends, send them messages and update their personal profiles to notify friends about themselves.

Although the two parties eventually reached a multi-million dollar settlement it only came after a very long and bitter public legal battle. Meanwhile Zuckerberg’s creation Facebook now has a few hundred million people visiting the website each month, and ConnectU – the brainchild of the Winklevoss’ – only exists in the Internet archives.

Non disclosure agreement (NDA) before disclosure

While all this happened in the United States one of the lessons is equally applicable in the UK.

The ideas and innovations that define your business can walk out the door if you don’t have the right legal documentation in place. With a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA), or confidentiality agreement as it’s often referred to, you can share information in confidence with third parties.

Just remember once in the public domain, ideas and concepts are generally not protectable and as a result anyone can exploit them.

As with other basic legal documents, which enable problems and disputes to be avoided rather than dealt with, often at a high cost later on, the hope is that the document remains on the shelf and never needs to be used.

But particularly in the early stages of any start up business, when you’ve likely not had the chance to realise the benefits of your hard work, a non disclosure agreement will help make sure nobody else will take advantage of your idea.

And the good news is they are now straight forward to create. So if you need to share your idea with a third party, create a non disclosure agreement first and give yourself some valuable protection.

Just ask Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss what they would do now.


Please note the information on this website does not constitute legal advice.

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