Protecting IP at interview?

I’m looking for some advice on ways to protect my designs at interviews.

If I haven’t got a patent on the product, would an NDA suffice? And is it an unusual request for an NDA to be signed before interviewing? What other solutions are there?

I came across this site recently too: Not sure how effective it is.

I’m based in the UK


It is very unusual to sign an NDA to view a portfolio unless you are some kind of international rockstar, it would most likely just be easier to pass.

People show their work in portfolios and interviews all the time. Is what you showing really on the level of sliced bread?

Hi Yo. I thought that may be the case. I do have some products that I am seriously considering patenting, and I don’t feel comfortable disclosing them at interviews.

Then patent them and get it over with and don’t show them in your portfolio in the mean time.

Will do. Has anyone used anything similar to the link I posted above?

What’s the worry about showing the ideas?

I can think of 2 possible reasons.

  1. Public disclosure prior to applying for a patent can negate the IP.
  2. The company will steal your idea.

As for number 1, mind you I’m no lawyer, but I believe a private meeting would exempt you from any violations.

For number 2, while it is possible, the likelyhood is nearly zero. The risk is vastly larger than any reward stealing an idea may produce. In fact, many companies ask not to see any development ideas in fear of seeing something similar to what they are developing.

I wouldn’t be worried about showing your ideas, unless you have a different fear.

My concern was for both of those reasons.

I was under the impression that speaking to an individual without an NDA, counted as public disclosure.

Unless protection is in place, I thought that ‘stealing’ an idea was perfectly plausible.

Does anyone have links to legal references over this.

Unless protection is in place, I thought that ‘stealing’ an idea was perfectly plausible.

I applaud your confidence in your work though it seems that the general consensus is that it would make for a very bad impression, where you to ask a potential employer to sign an NDA because you suspect he might be stealing your ideas after a quick walk through in an interview.

It would be interesting to hear from the more seasoned professionals here if they have ever heard from something like this happening?
That an applicant walked in with a portfolio and got his idea stolen by a respectable firm?
To me it sounds highly unlikely.

If I were interviewing you and I see something that rocks my socks so much that I’d consider stealing it, I think I would rather hire you instead have you develop it for me. To me that sounds like a much more plausible scenario.

That assumes that your idea is soooo awesome and completely unique, hits their target audience, and is yet completely on brand for them that they are going to drop the possibly millions of dollars they have invested in their current R&D pursuits and ignore the recommendations and experience of their entire team in favor of something they saw in an interview? Not very likely.

Don’t worry about it, just go on the interview.

Public disclosure -

Stealing is deterred by 3x damages plus legal fees for the defense. Plaintiff lawyers will work on contingency because of this. Way too costly to steal if caught.

I forgot to add, your IP is only as good as the IP you have.

Meaning, you don’t have any IP. You think you may be able to get some, but your knowledge of IP law is minimal so how do you know you even have freedom to operate? A patent is only as good as the independent claims. How do you know yours will be broad and not narrow? What exactly do you know about prior art?

My point, there may be nothing to publically disclose or steal.

Some good points made. Thanks for the link Iab. It seems that if I was to show the design in printed form, it would count as publicly disclosing the design.

If a NDA isn’t appropriate, then I think it’s best to not show a design until the patent has been applied for.

A similar question: What is the easiest way to ensure a Design Right on a product?

I forgot to add, your IP is only as good as the IP you have.

Let me add my 2cents to this…

Your IP is worth exactly as much as you are willing to spend to defend it.
To explain- Even if you get a patent - it doesn’t mean people can’t copy you.
A patent just gives you the right to take a company to court and compel them to stop. IF YOU WIN THE COURT CASE.
Sure, you might also get some damages… but you had better be prepared to pay all of those court costs up front -and they are very expensive.

Ideas really are a dime a dozen - it is follow through and execution that makes or breaks a new product.
I have seen amazing ideas go nowhere because the inventor had no idea how to distribute it and just thought it would sell because (in their opinion) it was great.
I have seen mediocre ideas make millions because the people behind it executed all of the sales and distribution perfectly.

Spoke with our IP attorney today. Showing concepts without an NDA is public disclosure. You will have 1 year to file from that date. If you do a provisional application, you get an additional year.

But again, willfull infringement is 3x damages and there are plenty of firms that will work on contingency. There is little worry any large company, pretty much the only entities that have the resources to implement an idea, will steal an idea.

Precisely. Unless its an idea-starved company with vaults of dubiously obtained Benjamins, several factories laying idle, and no clue that something like ‘industrial design’ exists as a profession. If so, congratulations and good luck on your interview.

If its that important, protect it yourself, or don’t even bother showing it. Our company does not seriously entertain inventor’s concepts if they have not done the legwork on IP previous to us seeing it.