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How can you protect your IP while doing market research?

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How can you protect your IP while doing market research?

Confidential written in red ink

One of the things putting business owners off innovation is losing their IP while conducting their market research. Here’s how one business owner overcame this challenge.

Paul Cave has a simple mission – to launch a business that enabled people to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Yet climbing a famous bridge as a tourist activity proved to be a world-first, and so he wanted to closely guard his idea while negotiating with the various stakeholders to turn that idea into reality.


“Of course, this is a really simple idea and with simple ideas you want to do your research, but you can't share that idea with anyone because otherwise the genie's out of the bottle as simple as an idea as it is. That was probably one of the most difficult things,” Paul tells My Business in an exclusive interview on the My Business Podcast.

“How do you research a simple idea? How do you get the answers to the questions before you actually approach the government? Because we really wanted to go with a business plan that was pretty thoroughly researched.”Confidential written in red ink

The end solution was a difficult one, reveals Paul, but one that guaranteed his overall idea as well as the background research he already conducted to date was protected.

“We ended up having 176 people sign confidentiality agreements, so about six pages in length,” he recalls.



“I remember going to a patent attorney and our lawyer, and they were frantic that I should ask [them to sign a confidentiality agreement]. The patent attorney particularly couldn't believe I was asking. He said, ‘This is my business’.”

Paul says that his response to the patent attorney went along the lines of, “Your business is frequently about patenting someone, something, and I understand that, but I don’t want you discussing this with your team. I just want your brain to give me some ideas around whether I can patent this and then how do we go about it.”

He did the same for his lawyer, as he says it is not uncommon for lawyers to discuss cases they are currently working on with colleagues and partners.

“I have the confidentiality agreements from those two people framed at home!” laughs Paul.

According to Paul, he took the same approach to all of the other stakeholders he dealt with, including psychologists and psychiatrists about traffic distraction and people attempting suicide while on a climb, local councils, the state government, heritage and environment consultants, the NRMA and so on.

How to counter resistance to confidentiality agreements

It comes as no surprise that not everyone readily agrees to sign a confidentiality agreement. So how did Paul overcome resistance and pushbacks in such instances?

For Paul, there is only one option – to stand firm and put your business interests first.

“If we couldn’t get someone to sign them, we didn’t talk to them,” says Paul matter-of-factly.

“Understandably a lot of people don’t like the thought of needing to do that but we had to say this is something that’s interesting. We think it’s different. I think it’s different, but I don’t want the idea out there until we’ve done our research.”

Check out more insights from Paul on his incredible 10-year journey to establish BridgeClimb Sydney on the My Business Podcast below:

How can you protect your IP while doing market research?
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