If you ask me what the best method of protecting your invention is, I will tell you that filing your application with the USPTO is the 100% bar-none best way to go as it leaves no room for anyone else to beat you in the race to the patent office. That said, if you are not ready to take that step and you just have to collaborate or discuss your invention with a 3rd party, the next best thing is a Confidentiality Agreement, also known as a Nondisclosure Agreement or NDA.
A Nondisclosure Agreement is essential for any innovator or business working with non-employee 3rd parties. Either a bi-lateral or uni-lateral nondisclosure agreement will provide an enforcement mechanism in the event confidential information is either disclosed or misappropriated.
If you haven’t filed your patent application with the USPTO, prior to disclosing your invention to a 3rd party, you must get an NDA signed by that party binding them to confidentiality over what you disclose. Note that not just any NDA will do the trick – it has to be customized to your scenario and for your technology. Check out the free NDA and the video below to see and hear the 4 major parts of an NDA that you must get right in order to be protected.