If you plan or have already started developing your product, you should know how to protect your business idea from being copied. Some people believe that an idea is worthless until it’s implemented. But in reality, everything is a little different. Without a clear and well-thought-out protection strategy, someone can copy the idea and launch the app faster than you. If you have an excellent idea for an application and still haven’t learned how to protect it, here are some tips for you.
Don’t talk too much
This one may seem obvious, but many people neglect it. Often when we feel very inspired by something, it’s hard to keep silent. You may think that only competitors, developers, or investors are the threat. However, your friends and family can become a trigger as well. And that’s not because they want you to fail. They can get inspired and happy for you as well and maybe occasionally share with someone either. Then someone shares with someone, and...you get it. So, one of the biggest pieces of advice we can give is not to talk too much. Don’t disclose the details, at least before your idea is realized. Either way, it can play against you.
How to protect your app idea from developers
Let’s say you’ve finalized your idea and are getting down to the development stage. It’s time to find someone who will realize your idea. In this case, we recommend turning to software development companies as they are more reliable than freelancers: they have proven expertise and a set of documents that oblige them to particular responsibilities, including your idea's confidentiality.
Find software development partner
We have already posted on “How to find a software development vendor”. In short, to find a reliable partner, there are some points you should consider:
- Experience. Explore their website and social accounts. There you usually can find a portfolio, technical profile, expert articles, etc. If everything looks transparent and trustworthy, get down to the next point.
- History. If you are looking to find a reliable long term partner, learn a bit about their story. It’s essential to make sure that you are dealing with an established company, not with a bunch of freelancers. If you have such an opportunity, we recommend visiting their office. This is probably the quickest and most certain way to learn more about them and build trust.
- References and recognition. There are some special platforms such as Clutch, where you can search for development companies by technology, location, domain, etc. You can find the key information about them and read reviews from real customers on the company's page. Don’t worry about fake reviews; the Clutch team takes it seriously. They thoroughly study and verify each company and each review. In case you want to get a face-to-face reference, you can ask a company to connect you with someone of their clients.
Non-disclosure agreement for the software
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA or a confidentiality agreement) is a legal contract that usually binds two parties in a confidential relationship regarding any confidential knowledge, material, or information. NDA enables businesses to protect their proprietary information and intellectual property.
Before sharing the specifics of your app idea, you can ask potential developers, vendors, or partners if they are willing to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
What part of an app can you protect? The protection of the idea itself is vital if it gives you a competitive advantage. Otherwise, NDA should protect anything unique related to your business:
- Trade secrets;
- Company finances;
- Patentable ideas (designs, processes, and features);
- Business correspondence;
- Documentation (including app specifications and requirements).
So, NDA is a legal way to protect your intellectual property and all the important information that must remain confidential. Most vendors have a two-year period of validity, and most of them have a standard agreement that could be changed by the clients’ request.
How to protect your idea after application release
Any software is an intellectual property that can be protected under the law. To decide on a protection method, you should first define what exactly you want to protect.
Software copyright vs patent
These are legal ways to protect your software source code, idea, or invention. However, each of them has its specifics. Let’s get down to them.
Copyright refers to the realized product rather than the idea itself. It applies to artistic work for attribution. Copyright is inherent and only comes into force when you complete your work. Then you immediately get the right to determine who is allowed to copy your work, but this doesn't mean that someone else cannot recreate your work on their own. For example, implement your idea using other technologies. After all, copyright is protected by "original works of authorship," which in software means the code, not the idea itself.
A patent protects an invention or original idea. A patent prohibits others from using or selling your invention, even if they haven’t borrowed actual portions of your program code, which is not copyrighted. This is what pushed many developers to patent their software. The boom in software patents began in the 1990s and has continued to grow ever since. To patent software, it must meet specific criteria: be new and original, be useful, and have a "non-obvious" piece of code or function.
To sum up, a perfect protection strategy is not to share the idea with anyone except those involved in the app creation. Before communicating with people potentially participating in the development, make sure they are willing to sign an NDA with you. Right before the application release, register copyright, or a patent. This way, you’ll protect your idea before and after release.
If you have any issues concerning your product's development or improvement, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are always ready to sign NDA, provide you with clients’ references, or meet face-to-face - anything to protect your idea and build a reliable long-term partnership.