How to protect an app idea?
If you are planning or have already started developing your startup app, you should know exactly how to protect your app idea from being copied or stolen.
Some people believe that if the idea is not implemented, then it can be released faster and it will not be a violation of copyright.
Therefore, at the beginning of your journey, you should think about protecting your business idea from copying and only then tell about it to your friends, investors, or contractors.
Any person who discovers or develops a new process, mechanism, production method, or composition, or significantly improves existing ones, can obtain a patent. Only app ideas are not patentable. One of the prerequisites for obtaining a patent is to provide a detailed description and diagrams of the process, mechanism, and other things.
If your invention is patentable, you need to apply.
A patent officer will review your application and decide if your invention is unique.
If the employee decides that you can obtain a patent, you will have the exclusive right to manufacture, use, and sell the invention for 20 years from the date of application.
You can take other people to court if you become aware that they are using your invention without your permission.
You can read this article about patent to help you understand some of the nuances.
Trademarking your app allows you to restrict your competitors from using the logo or its elements. Plus, you can trademark a specific functionality or unique service in your application. This is not the easiest route, but it can help protect against direct copying. Also, a trademark provides additional protection in various legal issues and litigation.
To find out more about trademarks check the link.
If you are forced to disclose the application idea during negotiations with partners, ask everyone to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before starting negotiations. These documents are widely used in the business world. Some companies may ask to slightly change the terms in the agreement and only a few will refuse to sign such documents. Non-disclosure agreements also lose their validity over time, so be prepared for that. A lawyer will help you draft such a document and discuss the terms of the contract with partners.
If the partner refuses to sign the contract, you must protect the information in another way (for example, draw up a preliminary description of the invention) before disclosing the secret. Unfortunately, if you do this without taking care of your rights, your partner can use your invention or even apply for a patent.
Non compete agreement
NСA (Non-Compete Agreement) is most often used in work with contractors. For example, let's say you're a business owner who hires an outsourcing company to develop a mobile app. During the development process, the contractor may understand that the app idea is very promising and profitable, then he may be tempted to use your idea or sell information to third-party firms that will become your competitors.
A business owner can be protected from such risks by an NCA. The NCA obliges the mobile app developer, within a specified period after the completion of the project, not to become your competitor and not to carry out similar projects for competing companies.
In return for limiting activities, the contractor can receive compensation: payment of lost profits, a support contract, or a percentage of future profits. So that it is mutually beneficial to both sides of the NCA.
Before choosing a mobile app developer, you need to make sure that it is reliable. You should study all the available information about your potential contractor. Read reviews on Clutch and GoodFirms, ask to contact you with current or former clients of this company for recommendations, study the ratings. Reliable and reputable outsourcing companies will provide you with thanksgiving letters, customer contacts, and other similar information. Working with professional contractors greatly reduces the likelihood of mobile app ideas being stolen.
If your idea is truly innovative, you can copyright it. You need to fully describe the app idea and post it on the Internet under your own name.
In the future, if someone implements your application idea before you, then they will have to prove in court that they invented it themselves, and did not copy it from you, otherwise they will be obliged to pay you for copyright.
The mobile app for the IOS, Android belongs to the objects of copyright. If your app idea already has some groundwork, then they can be protected by copyright. The objects of intellectual property of the mobile application include:
When deciding on the choice of an app, users are primarily guided by the appearance of the app icon. The icon as part of the app claims to be legally protected as a trademark.
The mobile app development is preceded by some preparatory materials, including sketches of drawings, terms of reference, application algorithms, interface ideas, including characters or articles. All listed items are subject to copyright and are also subject to legal protection.
Any app is based on a ready-made program code that must be registered as a computer program.
Since mobile applications are a logical development of Internet sites, we can safely talk about great opportunities for working with various data. Many mobile apps operate based on databases (Lamoda, Wildberries, 2GIS, Kinopoisk, Uber, Consultant Plus, and many others).
So, when there is already an app idea for a startup and people have been found who will help implement it, it is worth initially defining the key points of the relationship between the parties and clearly defining the roles of each of the participants in the creation and implementation of the project. As a rule, in a startup, there is someone who invests and someone who is looking for investments, someone is the "brains", and someone is the "hands" of the project. Therefore, it is necessary to conclude a certain agreement on cooperation, which will regulate the relationship between all participants in this process at its initial stages. Verbal agreements between people, known as gentlemen's agreements, only work up to a certain time. Therefore, it is better to document any agreements. They can be written in the form of memoranda of understanding (MoU), term sheet, or letter of intent (LOI):
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is a formal document describing a broad framework of an agreement that has been negotiated by two or more parties. The MoU identifies the parties, describes the project they are agreeing on, defines the scope of its application, and details the roles and responsibilities of each party.
A term sheet is a type of non-binding agreement that sets out the material terms of a future agreement. For example, under what conditions will an investment in a startup be made. It provides a template for the development of more detailed legally binding documents.
A Letter of Intent (LOI) is a document that declares the prior commitment of one party to do business with the other. The LOI sets out the main terms of the future agreement. They are often used in commercial agreements and are similar in content to the term sheet. However, one of the main differences between them is that the LOI is sent to one party in a letter format and has a rather arbitrary shape, while the Term sheet is more substantial and, as a rule, is presented in the format of short paragraphs that will determine further cooperation.
Limit the distribution
When your app is ready to launch, make sure that it is published from the official account of the company. That no employees or investors publish your application from their pages without mentioning your copyright. Any materials posted on the Internet and in the media must be published on behalf of the company.
Can you patent an app idea?
Under patent law, it is very difficult to patent just one idea. There are very few exceptions to this rule. Ideas are not protected by intellectual property rights in any country. The implementation of this idea, specific calculations, improvements, or functioning inventions is protected.
It is a common misconception that many young entrepreneurs continue to fall into that it is possible to obtain a patent for a mobile app idea or a general operating principle.
Instead, you can always patent a particular process or a way to get the result. Which turns out to be somewhat more difficult for inventors than just bringing a crude app idea to the bureau.
Why are ideas (rarely) patented?
First, the idea is too crude and amorphous to be documented in a patent.
Secondly, it gives patent holders too broad rights, which could lead to unjustified market dominance.
A patent application must necessarily include performance features - design or process. Then the patent becomes a serious argument in court in the case of illegal copying of these unique features by competitors.
What ideas can be patented?
Exceptions include first-time go-to-market ideas - hardly ever found now. As well as technologies focused on military science and science, where the process is extremely detailed. Such inventions and innovations enter the market after a while and have nothing to do with protecting business with the help of intellectual property.
If you've come up with a great startup app idea, then you shouldn't tell everyone about it.
You should understand that the idea of copy protection is very difficult. There is a fine line between stealing a mobile app idea and inspiration, so only share your thoughts with trusted people. Tell any details of the app only after signing non-disclosure agreements.
Any developments should be protected by copyright, trademark, or patent.
Take a complex approach to protect your ideas, then you will have a better chance of preventing competitors from using your features.
The Sannacode team always proposes to sign an NDA before discussing a project, you can be sure that your idea will be protected and kept secret.
You can go to the Lloyd & Mousilli website and get a free consultation from a law firm the has experience advising startups.