How To Protect an Idea for an App

Uncategorized Nov 12, 2018

The renowned inventor, Thomas Edison, famously declared, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”. His point was that hard work is required to transform an idea into a successful product.

So, when you have a great idea for an app or any other innovation, which instinct is telling you could be ground-breaking, bear this in mind. The idea just has potential at this stage.

To transform the idea into your vision for it involves addressing numerous issues along the way.  And whether you will ultimately have a successful app depends on whether your idea is well received. 

Did you know that Magic Cab was launched 3 years before Uber? However, they didn’t implement the idea as well as Uber and hence haven’t had the level of success Uber has enjoyed. 

Talking of Uber, Apps are so widespread nowadays. I certainly use a number of them. Each one is great at addressing a particular need, be it Voice Recorder Pro for excellent quality, easy to use voice recording, Scannable which is so much better than using your camera to copy documents, or Calendly to schedule meetings. There is seemingly an app out there for everything. 

So, if you have an idea for a new app, quite aside from the very real practical problem of finding someone who understands and delivers an app that reflects what’s in your head, there is the real problem of how to protect the idea so you benefit from it. You’ll be investing time and money in getting the project off the ground even if you intend at some point to attract investment.

Unless you’re a computer scientist the real challenge will be in developing the actual app. You’ll need to find the right person or company to develop it for you. Generally, that means using the right agreement to plan the project and protect your interests with them. 

Invariably as with any transformation, you need to use the law to support you if you’re to achieve your aims. Otherwise, if you ignore the law there is the very real possibility of discovering some major flaw in how you structured everything.

It can happen all too easily with intellectual property that you’ll discover an unintended consequence which could be fatal to the entire project. For example, if you don’t own the rights in the end product you have no business.

So, intellectual property needs to be covered off first and foremost before you go about implementing your idea. It’s such an important consideration when transforming your idea for anything into a successful end product or service, and especially important when that idea is for a new app. 

People often wonder what intellectual property is exactly.

Well, anything you have legal title over is your property. Your tangible property may be your house, car, furniture, and equipment etc.

Intangible property that it’s possible to have legal title over includes a brand name, a logo, an invention, secret recipe, an app and so on. Intangible property is often referred to as intellectual property. IP is simply an umbrella term that covers 5 principal rights, namely copyright, patents, trade marks, designs, and confidentiality. A name is protected through trade marks, while materials businesses tend to use, such as websites, content, videos, photographs, brochures etc are all protected by copyright. 

Owning the legal title to any type of property gives the owner certain legally enforceable rights. These could be really important to the long-term profitability of your idea because only the owner of the right may license it to third parties, just as only the owner of a physical property may rent it out to someone else. As intellectual property is intangible, you’re not restricted as to the number of people you may license to use your app. The important question is whether you are the owner of the IP right in the app or not. If you’re not, then you won’t be the one with the right to license the property to others.

Intellectual property has some surprising rules which mean that ownership of rights don’t necessarily lie where you might expect them to lie. If you don’t take the right actions very early on when you create something as you implement your ideas, then you may lose an opportunity to own a valuable intellectual property right. So, it’s important to know what you’re doing when you’re turning ideas for new projects into reality.

Some of the issues you should anticipate in the journey from idea to product will become apparent if you take the time to critically assess the idea itself.  Spend time doing some thorough research to check the market viability of your product. And before you take any steps to implement your idea take the time to understand the legal protection that would apply to it. 

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