It’s a quite common situation for every first-time startupper – to lose sleep worrying about competitors stealing their app idea. And it’s no wonder – you worked so hard doing all the research, brainstorming, searching for funding and choosing a development team, that even mere thoughts about all this being taken away from you must be dreadful.
How to Protect Your App Idea During The Development Stage
Indeed, such nightmare can easily become reality. Tough competition along with the potential opportunity to find a gold mine make people do shameful and ignoble things. But how to keep someone from stealing your idea? Fortunately, there are a few quite effective measures you can take at every stage of a development process to protect your app idea from unfair rivals. In this article, we’ll try to give you some hints.
No talk rule
You may think that only investors, developers and other startupper-fellows are the real threat; while your family, friends, people you meet at bars and in transport do not care about the details of your development project. But that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make before you actually develop an app and start promoting it. Because you should always remember that the more information about your product you share, the more vulnerable your idea becomes.
It’s, of course, sometimes very tempting to tell everyone about a brilliant idea that came to your mind. Yet, always try to keep technical details under wraps so you won’t blame yourself for being so impatient in the end.
Can app developers steal your idea? Unfortunately, yes. Software engineers are the people you just have to share your app idea with and these people may also be unreliable and unprofessional. Hence, when it comes to choosing a development team, it’s really essential to make a wise decision. But how to protect an app idea you have from being stolen by developers? Well, here are key aspects you should look at when hiring a development team for your project:
- Experience. Ask for their portfolio and experience of working on similar projects.
- Establishment and history. Usually, you can easily find this information on their website. It’s important that you choose an established company over a bunch of freelancers because the former values its reputation and has no interest in letting you down, while freelancers usually worry less about such things.
- References. This is optional but still nice to have. It would be great if you could get in touch with some people who worked with these developers before. Read testimonials (if any) and ask for the referrals’ contacts. And remember–when it comes to protecting your app idea, you can never be too cautious.
- Recognition. There are a number of places where you can look for developers. But if you want to reduce chances of your app idea theft, we recommend such reputable platforms as Clutch. It’s possible to check ratings and reviews there, so you can be sure that a team you are going to hire is trustworthy and won’t disappear with your app idea one day.
Signing a non-disclosure agreement or just NDA is one of the most common ways to protect any intellectual property, including a developed app or an app idea. Basically, it’s a contract between you and developers officially stating that all information revealed during the work on a project is confidential and cannot be disclosed to any third party. Read more here.
This protection measure actually goes hand in hand with the previous one, i.e. choosing a reliable partner since professional teams usually have no problem working under NDA. And what’s even more important — their team members fully understand all the consequences this agreement entails. In particular, if developers violate NDA, they will bear financial responsibility and a client is entitled to apply to the court to prove that the information was stolen.
So, as a rule of thumb, if you plan share detailed information about your future app with anyone, for example, investors or developers, be sure to sign NDA first.
“Copyright” is probably one of the first terms that pops up mind when it comes to preventing intellectual property from being stolen. But what does it mean? And can you actually copyright an app idea?
Simply put, copyright is a legal right of a person who created an original work to determine whether and how such work may be used by other people. Specific aspects may vary in different jurisdictions. Yet, as a general rule, the term “original work” does not cover ideas, but only the expression of them in a tangible form, which means that, unfortunately, questions like how to copyright an idea for an app make no sense.
Yet, although it’s not possible to copyright an app idea, you can apply for copyright to protect a mobile app that already exists. Such protection will cover UI and a source code, but you will only benefit from it when someone copies your application without making any variations to it.
Trademarking an app is another way to protect it from being copied. In short, a trademark is a unique design that allows for distinguishing specific products or services from products or services that come from other sources. As you may have already guessed, the answer to the question Can you trademark an idea? is No, because you should have at least a logo or a sign or a name that identifies your app to register a trademark.
You should also understand that trademark registration is aimed only at the protection of your app “appearance”; it has nothing to do with the functionality. This means that if someone builds an application similar to yours but gives it another name and uses a different logo, it won’t be considered trademark infringement.
It may seem that trademarking is a waste of time and money at first. But you’ll appreciate the true value of it when your app will become popular and someone will try to steal your downloads.
To patent or not to patent?
Patenting is considered a measure that offers the strongest protection for intellectual property. But can you actually patent an app? Well, it depends. In some countries, software is not patentable which means that you cannot apply for a patent. But even if some jurisdictions allow for patenting an app (again, not a mere idea for an app), the procedure is still costly and time-consuming. You should actually prove that your invention is useful, novel and non-obvious.
Another downside is that code is subject to changes, so even if you patent an app idea, there are good chances that you’ll have to go through the whole process all over again. But this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider this measure of preventing your app from being stolen. The question of how to get an app idea patented is indeed tricky. But if you hire professional attorneys, you’ll be good to go.
It’s absolutely normal that questions like How to prevent my app idea from being stolen? Do I need to patent my app idea? How to copyright my app idea? and How to trademark an app? are swirling around in your head. But you don’t have to worry too much about this. After all, if someone wants to copy your app, it’s indeed awesome!
Protecting your app idea is not easy, but it’s possible. Take all necessary measures (e.g. applying no talk rule, finding reliable partners, signing NDA, registering copyright, trademark and/or patent) and sleep soundly because you’ll be always able to prove that you’re right.