If you have the next million-dollar app idea, it’s only natural to be concerned about telling someone what it is. Unless you’re a programmer and are planning to code your app yourself, the problem is it’s going to be pretty hard to find a mobile app developer to code your app if you won’t tell the developer your idea. So … how can you protect your idea when discussing its details with a developer or advisor? We get asked this question all the time. Here are some things to think about.
- Get a Non-Disclosure Agreement. A non-disclosure agreement, often referred to as an NDA, is a document that obligates the developer to keep information about your project secret. Most reputable developers will appreciate your concern about loss of the idea and will have NDA forms for your consideration. That said, experienced developers understandably tend to be a bit jaded when people tell them they have the next billion-dollar mobile app idea. If a mobile app developer resists signing an NDA before getting any information at all about your idea, it could be because he doesn’t know whether you are serious about the project (or have the money to fund development) and he doesn’t want to spend the time and effort on a dead end discussion. It may be possible to give the developer a “30,000 foot view” of your app idea, giving him enough information to allow preliminary discussion of the project without disclosing all the details. If more detail is needed, be prepared to convince the developer that you have the desire and money to make your project a reality as many developers understandably do not want to sign an NDA for every prospective project. If the developer still won’t sign an NDA and you really think one necessary, look elsewhere for development assistance.
- Hire an attorney. What if you don’t like the NDA suggested by the developer or you are not comfortable about the process? Hire an attorney to advise you about your rights and how to protect them. Look for an attorney with experience in intellectual property law. Good “IP” lawyers are not cheap, but if you are planning to spend thousands of dollars to have an app developed, money spent protecting your idea is money well spent.
- Don’t worry about it. This might sound a bit crazy and we’re not saying it’s right for every idea, but the likelihood that a reputable app development company will steal your idea is low (of course, that assumes you’re talking to reputable developers). Remember that coding the app is only the first step of many on the road to making an app idea a commercial success. In addition to the moral issues of stealing some else’s idea, the practical problems (costs of bringing the idea to market, danger of a lawsuit if the project is successful, etc.) will generally prevent all but the most brazen crooks from swiping what’s yours. Is it possible they would go to this all trouble? Sure. Is it likely?
With respect to protection of ideas, there’s a decent case to be made that “great” app ideas are a dime a dozen; it is the execution of your vision (design, coding, implementation, and marketing) that makes a successful project. Still, if you’re worried about someone stealing your idea, talk to prospective app developers about the issue and about signing an NDA or talk to an attorney.
If you have other thoughts about protecting mobile app ideas, leave a comment.