Protecting your idea: how to

Protecting an idea is something many people want. If you have a good idea, you do not want someone else to steal it. But the question is, how do you go about protecting your idea in the Netherlands?


Many people unjustly think that it is possible to “apply for” a right for protection of an idea. Unfortunately, this is not possible. When looking at the different Intellectual Property (IP) rights, ideas do not fall under any of these rights. 

Take copyright, for example. Copyright is first of all not a right that is to be applied for. Copyright is automatically granted when someone creates an original work. Therefore, application is not necessary or possible. A mere idea however, no matter how brilliant, is too vague to fall under copyright. Ideas are therefore not covered by copyright. 

How about trademark law? Trademark law covers the name or logo under which you sell your product or service. Therefore, it does not cover ideas. 

And patents? Patents are meant for concrete technical inventions, which mere ideas are not.  As a result, patents do not cover ideas. 

As you can see, applying for an IP-right will not help you in protecting your idea.  

Then what can you do?

The former of course does not mean there is no way to protect your idea. There is a way to achieve this, but this is not by applying for an IP-right. How is it achieved then? Protecting your idea is accomplished by secrecy. How else do you think companies like Coca Cola have protected their successful recipes? A recipe like the one of this popular drink surely would not fall under Benelux trademark law, Dutch copyright law or Dutch patent law. Practically all companies use Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA’s) for their ideas and other IP that does not fall under the different IP-rights. This is the only way to protect these valuable assets. NDA’s are therefore indispensable when working with recipes and other valuable information.

How about the i-DEPOT?

We have seen; a sole idea that has not been implemented yet, is not sufficiently concrete for copyright. Such an idea is too vague. However, this does not mean that, once implemented, it can in fact fall under copyright. As to “implementation”: writing down an idea can already mean that there is implementation. 

However, as said above, copyright is not a right that you can apply for: it’s granted automatically. A problem that can emerge with copyright, however, is that it can be difficult to prove who owns the copyright. This is where the so-called i-DEPOT can be of help. The i-DEPOT is a means of creating a piece of evidence that can be used, should this be necessary in the future. But, the i-DEPOT is not a right, it’s only a piece of evidence. Nevertheless it can be wise to have an i-DEPOT, just in case. Also, it’s not very expensive which makes it accessible.    

Protecting your idea: this is how

From the above it can be concluded that the means of protecting your idea is by using NDA’s. Once implemented, an idea can furthermore fall under copyright. To strengthen your position from an evidence perspective in regards to copyright, it’s also wise to apply for an i-DEPOT in those cases. 

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