When developing a mobile app, you’d be right to have some concerns when it comes to protecting your intellectual property. After all, why work for months or even years on developing something that someone can just swipe out from underneath you?
However, some methods of protection will only cover certain aspects of your app. Other methods may be more inclusive, but the process of obtaining them may be expensive or time consuming.
So, what should you do if you want to keep your app idea out of the hands of your competitors? Here are some options:
The first line of defense. Whenever you’re talking to developers, prospective employees, or even fellow digital entrepreneurs, don’t divulge too much information. Talk vaguely about the concept that you’re working toward, but don’t disclose any important details.
If you want to go a step further, you can make consultants and developers sign an NDA before speaking with them in-depth about your project. An NDA is a nondisclosure agreement, and ensures that the party you’re speaking with can’t share any pertinent information you discuss with them.
Don’t underestimate the lengths that people will go to snatch up your idea. There are countless stories out there about friends and trusted colleagues stealing ideas to make it big. Remember, regardless of who you’re speaking with, play your cards close to your chest.
Copyrights won’t protect your idea itself, but they will protect any method you use to express, advertise, and announce your idea. So, if your idea is advertised via video, you can copyright the video. You can also copyright any materials that express the look, feel, and identity of your brand or app.
Additionally, you can put the code for your app on a type of physical media, like a DVD, and copyright that, since it’s an expression of your hard work in physical form. However, a copyright does not protect you from another party reverse-engineering your app.
A trademark is typically used to protect your app’s brand identity. If you have a name, logo, or slogan for your app, you can trademark these items in order to keep others from using your brand identity to promote a similar product.
Filing a patent to protect your app is the best way to ensure that your intellectual property remains yours. However, it’s important to know that, while effective, patents aren’t foolproof, and come with a few caveats, such as:
- Patent applications can cost between $5,000 and $10,000 dollars. Many small businesses simply won’t have the liquid capital to spend on these applications.
- Approval of your patent isn’t guaranteed. If your patent is rejected, you may have to rewrite and resubmit it, which will cost you another $5-$10K.
- The process can take a long time. After filing, a patent application may remain in the U.S. Patent Office for up to 2 years before it’s reviewed.