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Provided the idea is new and meaningfully different from any other existing business. Is there a way to prevent others from profiting off that idea?

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Here are the means of protecting intellectual property in the U.S. (and in most other industrialized jurisdictions):

  • and "trade dress"
  • (a special case of which is "Trade Secret")
  • Statute or executive order – pretty rare these days that you can get a government to protect your monopoly, but perhaps still not rare enough!

If your idea doesn't satisfy the requirements for protection under one of these mechanisms then you can't legally protect it.

  • You forgot "keep it secret" – Dale M Jul 6 '16 at 1:39
  • @DaleM - Yes, a "Trade Secret" is functionally and statutorily distinct from simply "keeping it secret." But if not with legal protection how do you keep a working business idea a secret? Crime syndicates have shown us plenty of illegal ways to protect a business idea.... – feetwet Jul 6 '16 at 1:42
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    Something that you need to do in the open cannot be a secret. If competitors can see what you are doing, it's not a trade secret. If you discuss it loudly with a partner in a restaurant while a competitor is sitting on the next table, it's not a trade secret anymore. If the competitor bribes your secretary, an ordinary secret wouldn't be secret anymore, but a trade secret would be protected. – gnasher729 Jul 6 '16 at 15:40
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Not legally. Not the business idea itself. You can keep it a secret though.

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    To the down voter, how could I improve my answer? – Ron Royston Aug 5 '16 at 3:36

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