I let slip my business idea to a group of people at a party. A couple of them seemed very interested in the idea and I’ve become a bit paranoid about this. I’m not planning to start the business until the end of the year so is there any way I can protect my idea until then? Or will they have open slather?
Unfortunately if your idea is just that — an idea — there is very little you can do to prevent someone else from adopting or copying it.
That said, there are certain “embodiments” of ideas which can be protected.
For example if the crux of your idea is a name for the business you can register it as a trademark.
That will prevent anyone else from being able to use the same name or any name which is deceptively similar, for the list of goods and/or services that you have selected when carrying out the registration. The same applies for a logo as well as a name.
If the idea involves some form of artistic creation it may be that the laws of copyright will give you some protection.
That does not require any form of registration but it does require that the work originates from a human author (as opposed to a database compilation) and that the work has resulted from some intellectual effort from the author.
Similarly, if your idea is some form of design it can be protected by registration under the Designs Act.
Finally, although patents normally relate to new inventions or new ways of manufacturing, it is also possible to register a “business process” as a patent.
If none of the above are particularly applicable to your idea, then the best thing is not to tell anyone socially about the idea.
If you need to discuss it with potential business partners, suppliers, etc, you should get your hands on a pro forma confidentiality/non-disclosure agreement to make people at least think twice before using any of your ideas.