A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can be an important safeguard for protecting your ideas. Robert “Ski” Dombrowski is a security system designer and consultant based in Honolulu. He talked with us recently about a time when not having an NDA cost him a lot of money.
Tell us about what you do.
I work with a consulting and design firm for security systems. I design complex security and energy saving systems that provide business monitoring and surveillance. I’ve been in the business for 40 years.
Not long ago, you had an unfortunate experience. What happened?
A couple of years ago, I designed a security system for a large corporation. We had a meeting where I presented my design plan to them. It was a complicated design that I had spent eight months developing.
There were several people present at the meeting. One of them, it turned out, did not work for the corporation. I’m not sure why he was there, but not long after, I learned that this person took the design I had presented to the client attendees that day and sold it to my potential customer. In other words, this person stole my ideas. As a result, I missed out on the profits for months of work – tens of thousands of dollars.
This person stole my ideas. As a result, I missed out on the profits for months of work – tens of thousands of dollars.
So how would a written agreement have helped?
After this incident it’s my standard practice to have participants to whom I present my security designs sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). This way, they are on notice that I regard my designs as confidential and I have legal recourse if they violate the agreement. However, for this particular meeting, I forgot to bring my forms with me, and as a result nobody signed anything. Just asking for the signatures would have revealed that this person didn’t work for the company. I believe it would have prevented my ideas from being stolen.
So you didn’t get an NDA for this meeting because you didn’t have your paperwork on you. How does Shake help?
With Shake, my NDA and all of my legal agreements are with me wherever I go, since I take my iPad everywhere. I can have everyone sign it before a meeting, and email it to them right then and there. And now that I can view and manage signed agreements from Shake, I don’t need to carry around a stack of paperwork anymore.