The website of a major webservices company could benefit from a simple additional feature.

Technically, it would be straightforward to implement this feature (they don't need me for this). Commercially, it should significantly increase the quality of their service and could have a significant impact on their traffic. Therefore, the reason they didn't implement it already must be that they didn't have the idea — yet.

I am willing to suggest this improvement, but for several reasons I want to monetize it.

Now, how can I secure this idea while approaching them ? I mean, odds are they won't be interested until they know the idea, but then, what could keep them from dismissing me while implementing the feature ?

I believe intellectual property will be of no help here.

I am thinking about asking them to sign a contract with an explicit clause stating that if they are not interested with the idea, they can't implement it on their website for 5 years or something. I have yet to check such a clause would be legal, though. But maybe this approach would be too "naive" anyway ?

  • 1
    NB : Though Approaching a company with an idea partially addresses this issue, the context is significantly different enough IMO for it to qualify as a new question. – Skippy le Grand Gourou Aug 20 '17 at 20:42
  • What value is this "feature" to you if it is dependent upon someone else's IP? In other words, how is protecting it worth anything. If they don't want it, is it still valuable? – Scott Aug 22 '17 at 5:03
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Ideas by themselves are worthless.

You can not sell just an idea. Whoever you are trying to sell it to doesn't know if your idea really is of any value to them. The only way to convince them that your idea is valuable to them is to tell them about your idea. But then they know the idea and don't need you anymore.

There is no good way to protect your idea as intellectual property. If it is something completely unique and special, then you maybe could patent it. But if your idea is that straight-forward, then there likely is prior art. And nobody is going to sign a non-disclosure agreement which prevents them from applying your idea without paying you when they haven't even heard about it. After all, it might be an idea which is completely obvious to them. They just didn't got around doing it. And if they sign your paper, they can no longer do it unless they pay you. Nobody in their right mind would sign this.

Ideas can only be monetized in the following way:

  • You don't just sell this one great idea but a prospect of many more good ideas. That would make you valuable as a consultant. "Your company needs a plumbus. This advise was a free sample of my abilities. I could think of several other things it might need or could get rid of. If you let me take a closer look at your internals, I could come up with many more useful suggestions. And this service will only cost you..."
  • You don't just sell the great idea but also the means to execute it. "Your company needs a plumbus. I happen to be a plumbus maker and can create a custom one which fits your needs much better than any off-the-shelf plumbus. And this service will only cost you..."
  • Great advice, in particular the first bullet point. Best answer so far IMO, I'm accepting it. – Skippy le Grand Gourou Oct 7 at 8:55

There is no way you can make this happen the way you want it. Do you have a contact at this company? How will you get in touch with the right people? If it is indeed a major web services company you would be lucky to get the idea on the right level to begin with.

You also assume that simply offering them the idea will make them all "Wow we need this!". There is no way you know this for sure, no matter how glorious you think the idea is. Many things can come into play at a major web services company when deciding to implement or not, and not all of those things are reasonable or make sense.

The best you can do is suggest the idea, offer your services as the genius that you are and hope this heavenly feature makes them want to hire you. And that's probably wishful thinking.

You can't. Even if you create an NDA that's legal, and have them sign it, I'm guessing you don't have the resources to actually fight a 'major webservices company' in court, while they probably have lawyers already.

Even if you fight them, I'm sure they can say they had this idea for a long time, and most surely they can come up with some 'proof'.

Your best shot here is to have a great plan and approach. You have to exit the meeting with them thinking that you have the feature so well thought already that it would be a risk doing it with their own staff.

Practically, deploying such a contract does not make sense. You are asking them to sign a commitment about an undisclosed subject, whatever it is. They would be crazy to accept. And this is probably not backed by law.

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