11 min read
Keeping Your Idea Safe – How to Protect My App Idea
In 2018 alone, there were over 105 billion mobile app downloads worldwide from the App Store and Google Play.
With new technology constantly emerging, there’s enormous potential in the industry.
So it’s no surprise that there’s a steady rise in mobile app development each year.
If you’re an entrepreneur that has a great idea for an app, there’s not just costs and development to think about. You also have to keep your mobile app idea safe.
There are tons of different apps that serve a whole slew of services. From grocery delivery to pet walking services – almost anything is marketable.
And chances are, whatever your idea is, it is marketable. But keeping this golden ticket to yourself until it’s ready to be shown to the world can be a difficult task.
In this article we’re going to take a look at what you can do to keep your app safe.
Why Protect Your Idea?
Keeping your app safe during the planning and development stages, and preventing it from being copied down the road, is crucial when marketing a new app idea. Whatever stage your app is in, your idea is yours and you need to protect it.
Next time you are at an app store, search for one of your favorite apps. Pick a popular one that everyone loves, as Grubhub or Yelp.
If you look closely you’ll notice that various app stores are loaded with copies of the most popular apps.
There is an almost endless amount of different food delivery apps or social media copies that offer nearly the same thing.
So what is the difference between these small apps and the variations?
The newer, lesser-known apps can sometimes add awesome new features that improve upon the original, or just flat out copy the existing idea due to lack of protections while offering cheaper services.
Imagine your idea, copied and monetized, pulling customers away from your idea. An idea you’ve likely spent hours prototyping or developing.
Avoiding this possibility can greatly improve the success of your idea and how you market it.
Legal and Social Protections
Legal Protections are a good first place to start.
There are many different legal avenues that can be explored when it comes to protecting your app from copycats.
Some of these come with pricey legal fees, but not all. Depending on what you need to protect from your app, some may work better than others.
Here are the top legal protections you should consider for you app:
1. NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement)
When producing an app, there are usually many hands involved, from development and marketing to designing.
While your team is without a doubt indispensable to the success of your app, don’t dismiss the fact that they can take off with your idea and create it first.
An NDA protects your business from the possibility of an employee taking your ideas outside of your business. This ensures that everything discussed within the workplace is kept private.
Those who sign an NDA are legally bound to not discuss ideas or they’ll face the consequences outlined in the NDA.
Anytime you bring someone onto your team, make sure they sign an NDA. These are standard documents.
Consult a local or online attorney for help. You will probably only need one document that can be used multiple times.
While this does not necessarily protect the specifics of your idea, a trademark is a fantastic way to reserve your app’s name.
Any logo or name associated with your app should be trademarked once your business has formed and development is almost over.
This is a step that is best handled with the help of a legal professional. There are lawyers who specialize in trademark law who are more than qualified to help you reserve your app name and any other associated words.
A side benefit from claiming a trademark is that if your app doesn’t launch or doesn’t perform like you expected, you still have the asset that you own, and you may even be able to sell the trademark to someone else.
3. Domain Name
When setting up an application, mobile or not, your business needs a website. There are nearly 2 billion websites registered around the world.
Finding a unique domain in this almost endless sea of websites can be a challenging task.
Registering your site before your app launches is extremely important. Having the name registered reserves the domain from being stolen by a copycat or another service.
When you register the domain, most services will offer you other web extensions to buy, like .com, .org, or .biz. This is recommended.
You don’t have to buy every possible variation, but owning the big ones is a hedge against infringement upon your idea.
Similar to trademarks, you have an asset with a domain. You own internet real estate. While you might not be able to use it, you can sell it.
While this is an amazing step to take when it comes to legally protecting your application, it is not necessarily something you need to do immediately.
This is a somewhat expensive option as well, so this is a step that needs to be considered beforehand.
This will legally protect every aspect of your app and ensure that no one can infringe on any part of your idea.
This is a step that should be taken when your app is done with development.
This step won’t work if any of your ideas have been patented before though, so some cross-referencing is a good idea.
Just like with any other legal documents, this is best handled with experts. There are plenty of lawyers who specialize in patent law, so you will have plenty of options.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s a very important step in protecting your business’s work. As long as whatever you have created is completely original, you can copyright it.
Copyright is slightly different from a trademark. While they both work to secure various types of IPs, trademarks tend to offer protection for logos, names, and brands.
Copyright is geared toward literary and artistic works like books and videos. Apps would fall under this category.
Just like a trademark lawyer, copyright law is a field unto itself. It is always best to consult with the experts when dealing with legal documents so that there is no confusion or missteps down the road.
6. Social Media
Almost every business nowadays has a social media presence, and it’s a good idea.
Even if you don’t plan on using a social media account to advertise your business and communicate with your audience, it will prevent others from taking your name.
There have been many issues in the past of impersonaters using a company’s name online and defaming their business. This is a problem you’ll want to avoid.
Using social media is an awesome option to advertise your business to many different audiences at once. It’s an easy way to get your idea out there and accumulate a community.
Go to the most popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and claim your brand before you launch your product.
Besides legal protections, there are some good practices that can protect your app idea. These can range from selecting employees to just knowing your stuff.
Hire the Right People
This seems pretty simple, but it’s something that needs to be said. You may have the best idea in the world, but with the wrong employees behind it, your app could become a garbled mess of code that functions only occasionally.
There are plenty of excellent agencies that rate development teams for hire. A trusted app development team is like hitting gold.
Your employees are going to be there to carry you to your dream, so you want a team you can trust.
This also holds true for non-development positions as well. Marketers, business executives, graphic designers, and other business side positions need to be someone you can trust and rely on for the entirety of your app’s lifespan.
These members of your team will decide how your app does once it’s released, so getting some good employees right off the bat is key.
A good rule of thumb is to hire slow and fire fast. Don’t hang on to a partner that doesn’t execute properly—you don’t have the mental energy to manage bad performance.
Do Your Research
Even if your idea is something absolutely revolutionary, not knowing how to capitalize on it could cost you your idea and all of the possible revenue from it.
It is all too common for someone to have a great idea and not execute on it properly.
While this may not be the safety many were thinking about, it is a key part of keeping your idea safe.
There are many key steps in the development and deployment process that someone who has never developed anything before may not be aware of.
There are plenty of experts that are more than willing to advise your journey as an upcoming business.
While keeping your idea private is great, consulting with those who have travelled this path before is extremely important and beneficial.
Learning the scope of the technology is important as well. We all wish that we could build Star Trek-style warp machines or Back to the Future flying cars, but the scope of the technology is not there yet.
This is an extreme example, but it gets the point across. Some ideas you may have may just not be possible yet, or too expensive with your budget.
There are some great features in apps today, but they had the investment capital to develop these.
This goes along with the scope point mentioned above. In order to develop something out of your idea, and capitalize on it properly, you may need to make some concessions.
This doesn’t mean be passive on your project – you’re the one who created the idea after all.
This just means you have to listen to developer input. Part of keeping your idea safe is properly capitalizing on it.
Sticking to one idea that may not be feasible could lead to a complete meltdown in the development process.
The experts you hired are there to help, so take their advice. It will only benefit you in the long-run to listen to those who want to help you achieve your dream.
You can’t avoid risks, but it helps to think through possible bad scenarios that could happen to your app idea.
By spending some time thinking about possible circumstances that could short circuit your progress, you can develop contingency plans.
What if your development team quits? What if the app store penalizes you for unknown behavior? What if marketing doesn’t work like you planned?
Tackle questions like these head on and develop strategies if things go bad. This will increase your confidence and may open your mind to newer ideas.
Whatever your idea is, know that it is more than likely marketable. Despite new apps releasing on a daily basis, there is always something new to bring to the table.
Legally binding contracts are a great way to protect your app idea from being poached by someone else.
Whether you are trademarking a name or logo, or copyrighting your work, you want to keep what is yours, yours.
Protecting your app is of utmost importance, especially in a world where copycat apps run rampant.
If you are legally covered, make sure you have a great team behind you that can bring together their skills into a productive unit that helps you achieve your dream.
App development and marketing is a lucrative business today, and cashing in on that buzz is an awesome way to share your creation and create some solid income.
Hiring the right people, creating traction through social media, and knowing your stuff are key steps in protecting your idea.
In the end, your idea is golden, and it’s worth protecting. Cutting corners will only hurt you and your business in the end.
As long as you and your hand-picked partners take the necessary steps, your business and app idea will thrive.
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