PRODUCTHEAD: How to protect your startup’s product idea

PRODUCTHEAD: How to protect your startup’s product idea

PRODUCTHEAD is a regular newsletter of product management goodness,
curated by Jock Busuttil.

killer product #


Rarely can we attribute inventions in digital technology to one individual or company

The best ideas can’t be copied — it’s all in the execution

Guides to patenting inventions in the UK and US

a favour: please share this with other product people

every PRODUCTHEAD edition is online for you to refer back to


Welcome to 2023’s first edition of PRODUCTHEAD, a free newsletter concerned with all things product management.

If you’re relatively new here, there’s an archive of all the earlier editions on diverse product management topics such a how to work well with your team, stakeholders and users, all the way through to ethical considerations when using machine learning in your product.

While you’ve been hopefully enjoying your holiday break, you might have come up with a great new idea for a product. (Or you might have fried your synapses by binge-watching box sets while continuously eating mince pies, as I have.)

As a general rule, I think it’s better to talk to as many relevant people as you can about your idea without worrying that someone will steal it from you. The likelihood of some doing so is minimal, whether or not you have a non-disclosure agreement in place. And even if they do, they won’t have your experience, enthusiasm or vision to make that idea a reality.

And if your idea really can be easily copied, or is itself a remix of something that already exists, what will be unique about the way you’re going to do it, which would mean that knock-offs would be inferior?

So this week we’re easing ourselves gently into the new year with a convoluted story about who really invented the USB thumb drive, followed by some practical tips for people and startups who wish to protect their product idea.

Speak to you soon,


what to think about this week

Who really invented the thumb drive?

Thumb drive, USB drive, memory stick: Whatever you call it, it’s the brainchild of an unsung Singapore inventor.

There’s nothing new under the sun

[Hallam Stevens / IEEE Spectrum]

Four ways startups protect their ideas

Competitive protection is more than just keeping secrets and filing for patents.

How to protect a copyable product idea

[Joe Procopio / Medium]

How to start your startup in 4 steps

The first and arguably hardest part of a startup is actually starting, and that’s what I’m going to focus on with this post. The Internet is literally littered with the remnants of my many failed attempts (not necessarily a bad thing), so there are things I’d avoid repeating.

Share the idea, get feedback

[Joel Gascoigne / Medium]

How do I protect my idea for a product?

Protecting a potentially lucrative idea can be exciting and unnerving in equal measure! Ultimately, it is fundamental to its long-term profitability. By defining and demonstrating the original aspects of your idea you’ll be able to stop a third party from legally developing an identical product and ruining all your hard work.

How to patent an invention in the UK

[British Library Business & IP Centre]

Patent process overview

To protect your invention, you may need a patent, trademark, copyright, marketing plan, trade secrets, or some combination of these.

How to patent an invention in the US

[US Patent and Trademark Office]

recent posts

The coffee shop problem

During a class I was giving the other day over at Edtech, we were looking at possible risks that might affect the theoretical products we were discussing. One team of students was hotly debating the relative importance of one of the risks. They couldn’t agree how much of a problem it would be if they discovered that something similar already existed on the market. I call this The Coffee Shop Problem.

Everything is a remix

[I Manage Products]

Will platforms conquer the world?

Product managers of software and hardware platforms face unique challenges that PMs of ‘regular’ products do not.

In this panel discussion, Hans-Bernd Kittlaus discusses platform product management with Samira Negm, Peter Stadlinger and Jock Busuttil.

Or have they already done so?

[I Manage Products]

As head of product, should I be a player-manager, or hire and delegate?

“There’s plenty that needs doing with the products. I could focus on the hiring process, but the only product manager on my team has their hands full, so I can’t delegate any more to them. I could get stuck in with the products myself as a player-manager, but this means I won’t have time to hire.”

Find the right balance

[I Manage Products]

can we help you?

Product People is a product management services company. We can help you through consultancy, training and coaching. Just contact us if you need our help!

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Helping people build better products, more successfully, since 2012.

PRODUCTHEAD is a newsletter for product people of all varieties, and is lovingly crafted from Wednesday Addams’ fringe and scowl.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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