I want to address a fairly common meme that shows up quite often when you deal with inventors and entrepreneurs, especially young ones. The meme is basically "We need to play this one very close to the vest, encrypt all our discussions, get folks to sign NDA's or contracts before we talk to them in any detail, and be very careful who we talk to at all. Because if we are not careful, someone will steal our unique and highly profitable idea."
After the first few patents you file or companies you start you realize a couple of things:
1) The idea itself is at most 10-20% of the insight and sweat equity required to get something off the ground. More commonly 1-5%.
2) Once you start implementing or building something new, usually there are follow on insights developed as a result that are far more important than the original idea.
3) If the idea is easy enough to do that almost anyone could steal and implement it, you should probably try another idea.
4) The kinds of people who are going to put the sweat equity into developing an invention or company most likely will do so on one of *their* ideas, not get all excited about one of yours.
5) Most NDA's dont work. I usually get them signed, but more as part of the process than with the real expectation they will be useful. And only after the negotiations get serious - usually i have disclosed the core of the idea already.
6) Its really not that common to have a 'truly unique' idea. Most likely someone, somewhere has thought about it or something like it, even if it hasn't shown up in the prior art yet.
7) If you are the kind of person who comes up with original ideas, you will have more than you know what to do with. In my experience, folks either come up with 0 or hundreds of good ideas. Not too many come up with between 1 and 10 good ideas.
8) Learning to judge the 'profitability index' and 'effort index' of new ideas is the key to repeated success. If my experience is any guide, you will leave at least 10 good, original, and commercially viable ideas on the shelf for every one you actually pursue. Maybe more like 50 to one.
This blurb was stimulated by a discussion on Slashdot where I posted something fairly similar. Might be worth a full length article at some point, considering how often I hear some variant of this meme.
Contact me if you have any questions about this sort of thing. I am always willing to chat about new ideas and business plans. I even have a very nice bilateral non disclosure agreement that has stood the test of time and can be easily adapted to specific needs.