Maybe! While there have been no such cases in recent times, have it in mind that it is very much possible for a loan officer to steal small business ideas for personal gains. In a society characterized by connectivity, it is not new or rare for business ideas to be stolen, both accidentally and intentionally.

Note that this can happen inside the workplace or even among trusted friends and family, either way; it can be devastating to entrepreneurs. A business idea is seen as any type of concept that could potentially be marketed and sold for commercial profit.

Business ideas are noted as the backbone of a company and will most often focus on either a product that can be sold or a service that can be provided to consumers for financial gain. Regardless of the idea, they will most often involve some sort of new innovation, upgrade, or approach to an existing product or service.

A good number of entrepreneurs are flabbergasted to realize that stealing someone else’s business idea is in fact perfectly legal. Unless the idea is adequately protected by a trademark, patent, or copyright; other people or businesses can steal the idea and run with it.

Although loan officers are not usually out to steal your ideas or concepts, have in mind that there is a good possibility that it might happen when seeking funding for your new venture. Owing to that, you should consider leveraging a couple of steps to prevent theft once you start sharing your concepts with others.

Practical Steps to Protect Your Small Business Idea

Because business ideas can be easily stolen or duplicated, here are some practical steps to help you protect your business idea and ensure it doesn’t get stolen.

  1. Always Research Your Audience

Before you submit your business plan for grants or loan schemes, it is imperative to research that particular agency or firm to ensure they are genuine.

In this modern age, information can be easily accessed online, and you could easily research the agency before going into any form of business with them. You can also search for disputes with earlier business companions and validate that the agency is well regarded in its discipline.

  1. Create An Extensive Paper Trail

It is also important you consider putting things in writing as much as possible and save that documentation as proof of your idea in case of any litigation.

Write down your idea or concepts and also keep detailed notes of discussions and conversations where you’re disclosing information to other parties. Have it in mind that the more details you keep in these records, the more useful they can be in the event someone challenges your ownership in court.

  1. Ensure You Don’t Reveal Too Much

The best way to pitch your business idea without it getting stolen is to ensure that you don’t dish out too much information. When you are pitching a concept to a loan officer or a potential investor, it is imperative you only provide the necessary information to convey the concept.

You shouldn’t fall into the temptation of sharing all elements of how your product works. If you intend to divulge all critical information, then it may be prudent to have anyone who is privy to that idea sign a non-disclosure agreement.

  1. Apply For Provisional Patents

In the United States, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Offices outline provisional patents (PPA) to protect an idea or invention. Provisional patents are meant to protect a patent during the 12 months before filing the formal application. It also allows the inventor to pitch the idea, test its commerciality, and make adjustments on any prospective issues before completing the costly patent application. Note that the recognizable “patent pending” label is attached to patents during this provisional period.

  1. Use Non-Disclosure Agreements

You can also leverage this agreement as an effective protective measure if you are seeking sponsorship or funding for your idea. A non-disclosure agreement or NDA is an agreement between parties not to discuss your idea or share information with third parties. You can work with an experienced and qualified business attorney to draft an NDA, thereby ensuring you have very strong protection.

  1. Trademark Your Name

This can also serve as an additional layer of safety, especially since an organization’s identity is most often tied to its concept. Registering a trademark can add more safety in the event of theft. The documentation you complete when registering a trademark is written proof that the concept you pitched is your original idea.

It also notes the exact date your concept was registered to you if another person attempts to argue this truth. You may decide to register your trademark with the USPTO, your state, or both, depending on the type of protection you need.

  1. Use Non-Compete And Non-Solicitation Agreements

A non-compete agreement tends to work almost just like an NDA; however, it is meant to prevent someone from starting a business similar to yours. A non-solicitation agreement may work in conjunction with a non-compete agreement to prevent someone from stealing your employees or clients.

Have it in mind that a non-compete agreement will have to be limited in time, scope, and location. While it would be impossible to enforce an agreement that limits another person from starting a similar business anywhere in the country for the rest of their lives, the agreement may prevent someone from starting a similar business for five years within a 30-mile radius of your business.

  1. Consider Work-For-Hire Agreements

This type of agreement can ensure that you get help with your idea without sacrificing your rights. In a work-for-hire agreement, you hire someone to work for you to look into or validate your idea. Note that anything these individuals come up with to solidify your idea becomes yours.

If you file a patent, this person you hire will be incorporated as a co-inventor on your patent. Irrespective of the title, they own no rights to the patent.

  1. Consider Trade Secrets Law

The Uniform Trade Secrets Act (UTSA) safeguards trade secrets that have either actual or potential independent economic value especially since they are not widely known, have value to others who cannot legally obtain the information, and is subject to genuine efforts from a business to maintain their secrecy.

In the United States, there are currently two common ways of stealing trade secrets. The first is through dishonest means such as stealing. Another is through a breach of confidence, such as a former employee who had access to the trade secret leveraging it without permission or even selling it to another company.

If someone steals your secret, you may have a legal claim against them if all three of the above elements are present. But if your company fails to adequately secure your secret, you may have no recourse if someone misappropriates it.

  1. Always Use Secure Communication

When discussing your ideas with loan officers or lending platforms, it is very important you only use very secure connections. In the age of technology, always remember that hackers can often have access to ideas by just hacking insecure communication channels. Therefore, it is always necessary to encrypt your communications to solidify protections and make sure your ideas don’t end up in the wrong hands.

If you have protected your idea and communications, it is recommended you also educate those around you about it too. While this might seem counterintuitive, have it in mind that marketing, education, and other channels showcasing your idea to the public can help prove your legitimate claim to the product or idea.


Just as was stated above, there have been no cases of loan officers stealing small business ideas for personal gains; however, it is very much possible and can really happen.

If you have any concerns about your business idea or are involved in a legal dispute over a business, then it is recommended you reach out to a local business lawyer for further advice. Note that an experienced business lawyer can analyze the facts of your matter and from their findings will be able to let you know if you have any options for legal recourse.