Idea for mobile app...how to protect yourself?

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  1. #1
    Motoracer is offline Member
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    Default Idea for mobile app...how to protect yourself?

    I have an idea for a new app for iPhone, Android, iPad, etc. It'd be social networking related.

    First off, how do you protect yourself? Patent the idea? I wouldn't want to go to a mobile development firm and have them take the idea. Do you have the firm and anyone you're working with sign NDA's?

    This is my first experience in this space. Any help would be appreciated.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    jeremycliff's Avatar
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    Interested in hearing some of the responses as well...
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    From what I know software is copyright protected. I don't know about the idea of software being protectable. Look in the app store. For every genre of apps there are hundreds that do the same exact thing.

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    Tpup is offline Member
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    Go talk to a patent attorney and a good IP attorney. Your idea may or may not be patentable and that route is expensive but offers great protection and additional revenue streams. In terms of someone "stealing" the idea, yes a good attorney will give you a well written NDA that protects you somewhat, however, you should check the reputation of every company you speak to. There are some people out there that understand that litigation is long and expensive, if they are big and you are not you could spend years trying to prove you were ripped off. That being said:

    1. If you can patent the idea, do it. Best protection, plan on spending $10K to get it done.
    2. If #1 does not work then explore reputable development firms and get your attorney to give you a good NDA. Don't talk to anyone who has not signed it.


    Good luck.

    ps. I have founded and sold two software companies; I am not an attorney.

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    I just recently just signed an NDA with a fellow L4P'er so we could discuss his project so there ya go.
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  6. #6
    2Props's Avatar
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    You'll have a challenging time getting a patten on a software widget. Not saying it doesn't happen, but it's tough to make it stick, and you spend a fair amount of time upfront going through the patten process while technology continues to mature, develop, and move on. Likewise, your app (idea, widget, program, etc.) will transform and morph into its own identity based on technology and the path it takes, as well how users use it, adapt to it, and expand upon it through user feedback and user driven requirements. You basically have a moving target the entire time.

    Where you can and should spend time, money, and hire an IP attorney is if you are creating something that is down at a core software architecture level, and particularly, something that's never been done before. This is where you'll spend a fair amount of time with an attorney in doing the research for similar pattens on like or similar software.

    If it's for a front end app, (iphone, android, etc.) I'd say don't waste your time in the patten process. Build it, market it, take it to market and do a GA release, and if you did your job, the results will be in the sales / widespread use of of the app. Your work will be copy written once published. People will copy it. It's part of the software industry. Especially at the app level where there are 100's of apps doing the same thing in a slightly different branding, method, etc.

    If at that point, and if your app needs / uses a back end for processing, aggregation, analysis, etc. (or a front end to whatever greater or lesser degree) then you'll be in a position to go through the process and take it to the next level.

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    think of this way - if someone came to you tomorrow w/ a pretty good idea, would you drop everything & do it?

    probably not.

    use a reputable firm & you'll be fine. they make money selling services, not taking gambles on projects. the contracts will cover IP transfer & copyright protections.


    don't patent it - complete waste of money 99% of the time. when you talk to silicon valley attorneys & VCs, many will cringe if your consumer-based internet/mobile app/site will be spending money on patents. spend the money on marketing & development.

    patents are a game for larger companies - they are basically insurance against legalized extortion schemes by your peers. yes, there are companies that collect these things but they've fine-tuned a business model out of it.

    let's say Google steals your idea - but you have a patent. will you be able to afford to defeat them in court? they will bankrupt you - plain & simple.


    (and the only way you're getting a patent that will hold up in the most brutal of legal battles (an important distinction) for < $20k is if you do most of the work yourself - time wasted when you should be developing / marketing your product.)

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    JPatterson is offline Senior Member
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    tried and true NDA with reputable developers. I've never had an issue when I have used an NDA. Although it may be a waste of time (I doubt it) - it tickles my willy and makes me feel warm and fuzzy. Good 'nuff for me.

  9. #9
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    I came across this in some other reading at BI, and thought it was relevant to the conversation here.

    A young computer operator invented mobile email but did not believe in patenting his idea.

    Geoff Goodfellow came up with the idea of sending electronic mail messages wirelessly to a portable device while working as an assistant computer operator. In 1982, he published his idea on a mailing list called Telecom Digest in a note titled "Electronic Mail for People on the Move."

    Goodfellow did not believe in patenting his work, however. "You don't patent the obvious," he told the New York Times. "The way you compete is to build something that is faster, better, cheaper. You don't lock your ideas up in a patent and rest on your laurels."

    Thomas J. Campana Jr., a Chicago inventor and founder of the company NTP, patented the idea of wireless electronic mail almost a decade after Goodfellow's original work, and helped pull in millions of dollars for the company.
    Reference: Who invented texting voicemail and mobile phones

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    Do you know the story of the three German students who invented the running show/iPod synchronization? They got screwed by Nike and Apple big time and they had lawyers and had everything patented and all. But Apple and Nike simple have bigger law department and more time and money to move the case from court to another court. In the end they had to give up, because it got to expensive for them. So in the end, if the company is big enough and decides to screw you over, they will.

    Not every motivating, but maybe that'll help you finding the right company to pitch to and thinking about what and what not to reveal about your ideas.

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