Non disclosure agreements, myths and patents

For those who perseverate on their necessity, I found a sample non-disclosure agreement (.doc) this morning. It wasn’t apparel specific but it seemed comprehensive enough. I found it at a site called Idea Tango which hopes to provide the service of connecting idea originators with idea seekers. Knowing what I do, I can only think idea originators will outnumber idea seekers at least 100 to 1. I found the site circuitously via Rondam Ramblings in an entry describing the top ten geek business myths. My favorites are:

Myth #1: A brilliant idea will make you rich.
Myth #2: If you build it they will come.
Myth #3: Someone will steal your idea if you don’t protect it. (my favorite)
Myth #4: What you think matters.
Myth #5: Financial models are bogus.
Myth #9: The idea is the most important part of my business plan.
Myth #10: Having no competition is a good thing.

From there, I ended up on Don Lancaster’s site, a gold mine of real life patent and IP information. Minimally, be sure to read his humorous and plain speaking The Case Against Patents (pdf) and When to Patent (ditto). Here’s a sample:

All those invention marketing services with their tiny classified ads are not really the main problem. These folks are basically selling dreams and wish fulfillment in much the same way as a vanity publisher or, for that matter, an X rated movie rental. Because the use of any invention marketing firm is the guaranteed kiss of death for any new product, these also do serve a useful purpose in helping keep abysmal junk out of the marketplace.

I don’t expect many of the patent seekers will appreciate what he has to say so I wonder why I bother linking to him when I know that few will pay him any mind. If people don’t want to listen, at least my conscience is clear.

Back the sample non-disclosure I found. Some of the agreement is basic courtesy:

That upon the termination of my agreement with the Owner: I shall return to the Owner all documents and property of the Owner, including but not necessarily limited to: drawings, blueprints, reports, manuals, correspondence, customer lists, computer programs, and all other materials and all copies thereof relating in any way to the Owner’s business, or in any way obtained by me during the course of the agreement.

Beyond that paragraph, I wouldn’t sign one of these documents. If you want to know why I think NDAs are a waste of time and not worth having killed a tree to print them up, some of my previous posts on the topic are (more are found under the category Intellectual Property):

Non-disclosure agreements
Copying processes
Copying processes #5
Paranoid and peremptory
I couldn’t make this up if I tried

In spite of my well known aversion to these things, I must get a request to sign one at least once a week. I can’t tell if they haven’t read the book or blog or if they genuinely believe their idea is the one exception to the rule. I have lots of reasons for not signing but the main one is: I cannot be responsible for the confidentiality of anyone’s idea. Since designers wanting NDAs are nearly always newbies, they don’t know what they should or should not be saying to given people so they end up blabbing what I would consider to be highly confidential information to people I never would and then they want to hold me responsible for keeping their idea secret? The reverse is true too; I would sign if it were an established firm that had been around (not coincidentally, established firms don’t require NDAs) because they’d know who could know what and I wouldn’t have to worry about it.

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4 comments

  1. Judith says:

    Oh Kathleen, I have been meaning to write you and tell you about this company that is patenting their blouses. Maybe you have all ready heard of them.

  2. Kathleen says:

    Oh Kathleen, I have been meaning to write you and tell you about this company that is patenting their blouses. Maybe you have all ready heard of them.

    Oh wait, lemme guess…their names are Rebecca and Drew. Yep, I wrote about them in Patently Arrogant. I think the name of my entry says it all.

  3. Judith says:

    Yes, Kathleen it is Rebecca and Drew. You put up this info up in 2005 before I found your site. I figured you had heard of them. I did google these 2 and they had a article in WWD and they were talking about their patent. I thought it was interesting they were telling WWD they are getting a patent. I was trying hard not to laugh after all the info I had learned here.

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