Jennifer B. Davis
All entrepreneurs consider their ideas sacred and most dream of offering them "hard protection" with with patents. The truth of the matter is, however, that most ideas benefit from sharing, not protection. So, here are my top three reasons why

3. IP protection is expensive
If you have ever looked into this, you know how expensive it can be to apply for a patent and only years later can you know the outcome of that investment. And if your concept is complex (and not obvious) you will need to likely file for multiple patents to protect the various aspects of the idea in specificity enough for the patent office. If you are lucky enough to be issued a patent, that is only the tip of ice berg in terms of cost. If you actually want to defend a claim against your IP, you can expect to pay 5 to 10 to 100 times more than you paid for the patent filing. If you intend to create a business (not just a licenseable patent portfolio), and you have invested that same cash in marketing, partnerships, or prototypes you would have been ahead.

2. You should give the world a chance to help
An idea you keep to yourself is something that others can't help you with. The more people you tell, the more people you can get thinking about your problems and offering solutions. The more people you tell, the more likely it is that the resources you need (ie, engineering help, marketing advice, an introduction to the buyer at a key reseller, etc) will materialize. You can't get the help you need, while fearing infringement.

1. An idea isn't enough
And the number one reason that IP protection is a false assurance...because the idea isn't enough to make a successful business. As anyone will tell you, there is a HUGE gap between an idea and its successful implementation. Most often than not, the idea itself changes wildly once implementation begins and feedback from customers rolls in (see #2). The key is to begin implementation as soon as possible and identify the steps necessary for commercial success.

In short, seeking IP protection can hurt a small business more than it can help. If you want to bring something to market, bring it to market. Be the first to promote it and the first to be successful. Anyone copying your idea and wanting to build a successful business will have to catch you first.