NDAs and Intellectual Property Issues
Beyond the 20-30 emails I get a day from people looking for app quotes, I would say the second most often question I’m asked is “How do I protect my idea?”
Let me start by saying I understand that position – I own a company that is literally a single logo, and I went through about $20,000 in trademarking through the USPTO, and I don’t regret that for a second. The value of my brand and product is worth about $100,000 right now….all because no one else can use that mark easily. Owning intellectual property and an idea can be a great way to skyrocket your value, along with ensuring that you’re first to market and inhibiting competition.
But the app world is a very different beast than the patent and trademark world. I hate to break it to you, but unless your app has to do with something very unique to you or and proprietary idea already, chances are someone’s already developed something like it, or will develop something like it shortly. Honestly, that’s what I think is so great about the app world – it’s a free market. I always get skeptical about people who are so insecure about “sharing their ideas” because I think they don’t believe that they could bury anyone who tried to steal it. Without that killer instinct, how do you expect to be a millionaire?
I digress. My point is that there are lots of ways to spend your time, energy, and money and protecting an app idea should not be one of them. For those of you who are concerned about this, here’s what you need to know.
Any development shop under the sun is going to either assume they are under NDA or will readily sign whatever you’d like before any negotiations take place. Any developer that has a business built on stealing ideas or source code is going to fail, I can guarantee you that, so don’t think about it too much.
Similarly, these guys see hundreds of ideas every month, so the chances of them stopping that all to take your source code and build their own app is very, very unlikely.
Designers will also be happy to sign an NDA before doing any work, protecting all your designs and characters, etc. from making their way into something else. Without question, the teams that you hire to make this app a reality are the last people you need to worry about with intellectual property, so rest easy.
“I don’t want someone ELSE to steal my idea. I know everyone’s looking for a good app idea.”
You’re right. A good idea for an app is a huge leg up and can get the juices rolling. If you want to protect it all together, your best bet is just to have NDAs signed by anyone you talk to on a formal level. It may be a turn off if you’re not paying them, but it usually shouldn’t be an issue if you do all the paperwork and heavy lifting.
On a personal note, I’ve seen some people who “steal” ideas from others and try to build the app themselves. It happens. What I will say is that the people who steal ideas tend to be the guys doing black hat SEO and looking for any “get rich quick” scheme. They’re not going to drop $50K on an idea they stole from someone else, trust me. And even if they do, you’ll crush them in the long run because you’re going to want it more.
So – for intellectual property, don’t sweat it too much. Anyone you hire will be sensitive to protecting your idea, and you won’t have it stolen.
Now, let’s focus on the good stuff 🙂