Charlie Byrne, ETR’s Associate Publisher, walked past my desk shaking his head.

“Did you see the latest letter sent to Michael Masterson?” he asked. “It’s another reader asking how they can ‘protect’ their business idea from being ripped off.”

I hadn’t read that particular letter, but I was familiar with the subject. Readers, as well as customers who attend our conferences, ask Michael and other ETR experts this type of thing all the time: How can they patent their invention (which is “going to change the world as we know it”), copyright their e-book, password-protect their website, trademark their business name, and so on.

The problem is that most of these people haven’t yet created any products, are still building their website, have no idea who their target market is, haven’t written any marketing copy… well, you get the idea. They are worried about protecting a business that doesn’t exist.

As Michael, MaryEllen Tribby, and Charlie have pointed out time and again, they should be focusing on building their business Ready, Fire, Aim style. They should develop a product and a marketing plan, and then test it in the marketplace to find out if they can sell it. If they try to shield themselves with passwords and copyrights first – well, odds are their business will fail before the first customer even finds them.

[Ed. Note: If you’re spending time worrying about copyright infringement and patents and trademarks, you’re worrying about the wrong things. Finding out if you can get a foothold in the market is much more important.]