Intellectual property can be difficult to protect, including great app ideas. A mobile app can be an invaluable asset for any business, especially B2C businesses seeking new ways to engage with customers.
Apps can also be incredible moneymakers when you create something with viral appeal. So how do you protect your app and keep the competition from stealing your app idea?
In a competitive market, fresh ideas capable of generating revenue can be hard to come by. It’s not unusual for developers to clone successful apps or steal new app ideas. As an app owner, you can take steps to protect your intellectual property.
To protect your idea, you must protect yourself at each stage of the development cycle. Here are six things to consider.
1. Work with trustworthy partners
It’s common for app owners to outsource development to freelance coders or agencies specializing in software development. Of course, anyone can set up a website and say they are an app developer. The market is flooded with unreliable and unprofessional people who can re-create your app for their own purposes.
When choosing an application developer or agency, you want someone trustworthy. Step one for protecting you app is hiring a reliable developer. Here are some tips to help you identify a reliable developer resource:
- Ask to see their portfolio and about their experience. A good portfolio that displays work done for several clients tells you they have been in business for some time.
- Ask for client references and find out what kind of experience they had working with the freelancer or agency. This step may seem unnecessary, but it’s a good way to determine if you can trust the developer with your idea.
- Choose freelancers referred to you or have vetted by a reliable work-for-hire platform like Upwork.
2. NDAs Are Essential to Protect Your App
Once you find the right developer partner, have them sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). An NDA is a contract that establishes a confidential relationship between parties. It states that any information you share during the development project is confidential and cannot be shared or disclosed to anyone.
To ensure it’s binding, the NDA should list all parties involved in the project. Also, have a legal professional check to ensure there are no loopholes and that it protects your idea.
After the NDA is signed, you can share whatever information developers need to deliver the project. They will keep everything confidential to prevent an infringement suit. If the developers are wary of signing an NDA, find someone else.
3. Document everything
Maintaining a clear and complete paper trail will help protect your app if there is ever a dispute about the intellectual property. Log everything from the genesis of the idea through to completion. Even the smallest detail could be crucial in a court case. Smart app owners document the business plan, app code, wireframes, and other details.
Be sure to keep your app notes secure. Place them on a separate drive where you have secure access.
4. Don’t share everything
Naturally, despite your desire to protect your app, you will have to share aspects of app development with coders, designers, and even investors. That doesn’t mean you have to share everything. Share only the specific information you need so others can do their job or decide to invest.
It’s always best to operate on a “need-to-know” basis, especially during the early development phase when your app idea is more vulnerable.
5. Protect the name of your app
Did you know that no two apps can have the same name in the Apple App Store? Once you reserve a space under your app name, no one else can claim it or publish an app with the same name. And there is no cost and no limit on how long you can reserve the app name.
For greater protection, you can always trademark the app name along with a logo. Once you have a trademark, no one can steal your brand or copy your brand identity.
6. Patent your app
The strongest way to protect your app is a patent, although getting a patent is not that easy. To qualify for a patent requires your app to meet very specific requirements for uniqueness and usefulness.
If you are considering patenting your app, it’s best to start by consulting a patent expert first. They can tell you if the app is patentable and guide you regarding the patent process, terms, and fees. If your app is eligible for a patent, it will completely protect your app as your property, including features, concepts, and any variations.
It may not have occurred to you to protect your app idea, but you should. Without proper protection, anyone can capitalize on your idea. An excellent place to start is finding a reliable developer partner who can help you realize your mobile app and who may also be able to help you take the necessary steps to protect it.