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Take Another Look

Want a second opinion on that great idea, but you're not sure about shopping it around? Our Inventions Expert suggests protecting your idea first.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: I have an idea for applying logos to an item, and my preliminary research confirms this idea isn't being used at the moment. I'd like to license this concept, and I've found a few Web sites where companies will assess your idea and indicate if it has possibilities. I'm not sure about using these services since they're asking for full disclosure. I'd appreciate any suggestions, but please keep in mind, I have limited time and resources.

A: First, you can't license a concept. You'll have to obtain some level of intellectual property protection before you can approach prospective licensees. This may include a patent, trademark, copyright or some combination of these three.

Second, by what you express in your message-applying logos to an item-it would appear that it would not satisfy the test for a patent, and therefore wouldn't be patentable. It also appears that you'll be the licensee, not the licensor, and would have to pay the owner of the logos for use on your product.

I would suggest you look hard at the commercial viability of your plan. If you believe you can make a go of selling these products, you can begin approaching the logo owners with regard to paying them for a license to use their intellectual property, and then begin developing your sales and distribution channel.

From what you've said, however, it doesn't appear you have any intellectual property that can be protected. For more information on what material can be protected under intellectual property laws, please review the FAQs at http://www.patentcafe.com/patents_etc_café/index.html.

Andy Gibbs is president and CEO of PatentCafe.com Inc, a leading intellectual property information and resource Internet portal. He is an inventor with seven issued and pending patents, and an entrepreneur who has started seven companies ranging from product development to low-and high- technology product manufacturing. He speaks to inventors, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists on intellectual property, marketing research, competitive strategy and sales development. Visit http://www.patentcafe.com.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.