Your idea is a precious commodity to you. You must protect it with an NDA (non disclosure agreement) or copyright and secure your corner of the market. It’s your idea, so no one else should be making it.
I’m going to interrupt this bit of paranoia with a large dose of reality- your idea has been done before. Trying to copyright any type of shape or technique in fashion is futile. Honestly it’s not about who’s the most original, but more like who can do it better.
But what about pattern makers and factories? I know they want to steal my ideas!
We are in the business of making stuff and built our success on helping designers succeed. We are engineers and service providers not fly by night con artists. Let’s say we ripped off one of your ideas. Do you think anyone would work with us anymore? This is our business model, not common thievery.
If I’m handed an NDA from someone who hasn’t even had a production run, I’m kinda like this :
If you have no brand yet, then you have nothing to protect. Your idea is not worth millions until it is proven and quite frankly I’m not invested enough to steal someone’s idea and bring it to market even if I think its good. I have a lot on my own plate.
You are setting a trap for us to be sued
Like I said, everything has been done before. For the sake of argument let’s just say that I sign your NDA to protect your size small scoop neck tank top that I am making for you. You show up to my workspace and spy a sample of another scoop neck tank top.
Gasp! “She’s sold the idea to another client!”
Nope. It just so happens that you are not the only one who wants to do a scoop neck tank top. But you are fuming and ready to sue me. I assure you that I did not disclose your idea, but after discussion with your lawyer, you must take action (remember, it’s in their interest to take action). That means I have to get my lawyer involved and I’m pissed because that’s more money I have to spend. Now you don’t have anyone to make your patterns and are embroiled in a legal battle instead. It’s a no win situation for everybody and really, do you want to be spending your time this way?
An NDA is a passive aggressive insult
When I am sent a NDA from a new client I have to take a very deep breath. You have no idea how insulting this is. You are saying you don’t trust me, but still want to work with me and I’m supposed to be excited to work on your stuff and do my best work?
I have my own disclosure statement. I know what’s in my disclosure it and it’s fair for all parties. I try not to go this route though. I build relationships with my clients that I hope will last. I may even introduce the idea of a client agreement contract once they reach a certain stage where they are growing and both of us need the protection for “just in case” scenarios because we are dealing with volume ($$$). But when you are starting out with 3 styles, let’s be realistic.
Your 10 page NDA is a financial liability.
I’m not going to sign anything that I’m not 200% sure is not going to put me in a bad spot. I will have to pass your NDA to a lawyer to look it over and that’s going to be cost me more than I would probably earn making your patterns. Basically, I have to spend money to even work with you.
I will only sign NDA’s for large companies
Large corporations may have something legitimate to protect or the NDA is part of corporate protocol that is bigger than all the parties involved. The protection is not aimed at a specific project but rather the brand reputation and trade secrets that they have invested millions in establishing. Additionally, if I snag a big retail client I know they will more than likely keep giving me continuous work and payments are regular.
New designers and startups are especially volatile during the first few years. Even if they can pay the bills it doesn’t mean it will last forever.
Your lawyer will tell you this is a must
Of course they will! They get paid by the hour to draft up these types of contracts. Enough said.
Not everyone is honest, but I am
I don’t discuss my clientele with each other and I keep it pretty well under wraps. No one sees what I am working on. I leave it up to them to disclose me as a resource. However, if I feel there is a major conflict of interest then I will bring it up or refuse a job. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do!
Who your really need to worry about
Your competition. They are watching you and seeing what is selling and perhaps blatantly knocking you off. If it worked for you then it’s gotta work for them.
If you sell to a big enough retailer you can bet they have their eyes on you. If you are doing well, they may try to find a way to duplicate the product by cutting you out of the picture. I’ve seen this too often to count. Retail is brutal y’all!
Sidenote: I’ve heard more stories than I like of people hoping to hit the jackpot selling on everyone’s fave online retailer (you know who I’m talking about). Yeah, they did well with a product and this site took note. They took the same product and had it knocked off and for sale under their own brand umbrella quicker than you can say “add to cart”. They will crush you and you won’t be able to do anything about it.
What You Should be Investing your Energy into
Listen, I’m not a legal expert but I think it’s far better to invest in your brand development first instead of feeding the paranoia beast. Your first move as a designer should not be to “lawyer up”. Only go that route to form your LLC.
The cold hard truth is that copies do happen but more than likely it will not be because your factory or patternmaker sold the idea. We need you to be successful so you can keep giving us work.
Yes, if you are copied it’s infuriating and feels like an invasion. But if your idea is good it will get copied by someone. Your next move is to keep doing what you do and do it even better. The copiers don’t know your next move. They don’t think like that because it’s all about instant gratification. It is your creative vision, your ideas, and your energy- keep it flowing and moving forward.