App development isn’t a one-person job. To make a quality product, you will need to work with partners who can help to fund the project and guide it through all of the steps between idea conception and market success. You will also need developers who can help to make your idea into a functioning and practical reality.
The problem that keeps many people up at night is how to get potential partners and developers on board without telling them all of the information that they would need to steal your idea and take it to market without you. This is a sticky problem with lots of room for doubt and lots of potential legal solutions that many people spend. This article will discuss some of the protections that you probably don’t need to spend time and energy chasing, as well as a few key things that you can and should be doing to protect your idea.
The Problem with NDAs
We don’t want to say that your idea isn’t special, but it can be very difficult to prove that someone stole your idea, even if they turn out the same product, as long as they do simple things like changing the name. Legally, having an idea that is very similar to someone else’s even if you haven’t met, is called “independent invention” and it’s hard to disprove. To win a legal battle, you’d have to prove that the other individual intended to take your idea. This can mean a lot of holding onto emails, recording conversations, and other paranoid behavior that is difficult to maintain, especially if you want other people to sign onto your project.
A lot of people opt for an NDA, or “Non-disclosure Agreement” to protect their ideas. It can be hard to word these documents in a way that protects your content, and hard to have them filled out in a way that makes them binding. As you get further along in the development process, and NDA might be a good idea, but while you’re in the early phases of putting a team together, it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth.
Finally, there’s the pesky fact that you can’t protect your idea forever. Even if you have a unique idea, you only work with people you trust, and you cover all of the bases to protect your idea legally, it will eventually go public. After an idea has gone public, it becomes even more difficult to prevent competitors from using your idea against you to try to make money for themselves.
If you truly feel your invention is unique and it needs legal protection, apply for a patent or even a provisional patent. Provisional patents are an inexpensive way to reserve the option to file a patent within one year. I am not suggesting you file for a provisional patent before sharing your idea. If you are paranoid and is preventing you from proceeding with developing it, it is an option.
Your Spirit should be Crucial
The fact that nothing stays private forever and that it can be expensive and challenging to protect your idea anyway doesn’t mean that there aren’t aspects of your project that you should try to keep safe.
Your idea might be unique or it might not be, but the fact that you are pursuing it and are dedicated to its protection means that your idea must have some special element that would make your app the best of its kind. Whatever element this is is the thing that you most need to protect.
Of course, you will still need to share some information on your product with your potential teammates for them to be interested in helping you make your idea a marketable tool. There still should be some element of uniqueness such that the project will not succeed without you. If there is such an element, no one will be able to compete with your product even if they do try to steal your idea. If there is no element of your project that requires you to work, you should be rethinking whether or not your idea would really be a worthy addition to the market in the first place.
Protect your Codes and Data
In addition to your own experiences and entrepreneurial spirit, there is some hard-copy content that you should keep safe to protect your idea. If there are any algorithms or codes that you have written or any data that you have collected, that is the kind of content that you should pursue legal protection for and keep to yourself for as long as possible.
It helps that not all content of this kind should need to go to the same place. While data that you have collected may be an important talking point to get partners to sign up, the partners shouldn’t need to see any code or algorithms that you have written. Similarly, while developers will inevitably have access to codes or algorithms at some point, they shouldn’t need access to any data that you have collected. In this way, you can ensure yourself as necessary to the survival of the product because you will be the only one with all of the necessary pieces to make it competitive on the open market.
That doesn’t mean that you have to take any secrets with you to your grave, however. The farther along your project is, the easier it becomes to prove that any proprietary content is yours and the less likely any competitors will be to try to steal anything directly from you.
In the end, if you’re losing sleep over your intellectual property rights and how you need to keep them safe from your partners and developers, you’ve probably been watching too many movies. There are always fantastic ways that people could conceivably get at your content and steal your idea and there will always be one more thing that you can do to try to prevent that from happening. In the end, however, sweating over whether your content is secure enough from partners who may betray you or developers who may run off in the night with your information is only going to prevent you from getting people to work with you.
What’s more important than having faith in the security of your idea is having confidence in yourself as the only person who is capable of pulling it off. If you have a winning idea that you are truly passionate about and if you bring something unique to the table that can turn that idea into something that will become popular and make a difference in the world, no one will be able to take that away from you.