I am developing a new app how can I ensure my idea isnt stolen by investors?
If you’ve got an idea for a new product, the first thing you’ll want to know is how to protect your unique ideas. Grid Law founder David Walker helps a reader understand how their idea for a new app may be protected under trademark and copyright laws.
A quick thank you for writing your article on protecting a new business idea a really helpful read.
I’m emailing as I have an idea for an app which centres around convenience and transparency. When users make a purchase through the app, they will also be able donate part of the amount they pay to charity.
I have a friend who is an app developer and Im confident he will be happy to sign a non-disclosure agreement and then assign all the rights he creates over to me.
After the app has been developed, I want to take it to market and raise sufficient investment to fund the opening of the first shop. Ideally, Im looking for someone who will provide the working capital in exchange for shares.
Im concerned about how the app will be protected once it has been developed and all my ideas captured within it.
Is it protected under trademark and copyright laws or would I need a patent?
What’s stopping anyone from taking the idea for themselves, creating their own version of the app and just changing the nuances of the design?
Thanks for your question and Im pleased that you found the article helpful.
As explained in that article, ideas are really difficult to protect. So, before talking to potential investors, you should ask them to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). The NDA will ensure that they are contractually bound to keep your ideas secret and can only use them for the purpose of considering an investment in your company so you can further develop your app.
If the investor uses your ideas for any other purpose, for example developing their own app, they will be in breach of contract and potentially you would be able to claim compensation from them.
If the investor refuses to sign the NDA, you will have to be very careful with what information you disclose to them. This is an issue I covered in more detail in a previous article: How to overcome common problems with non-disclosure agreements
Now, let’s look at the possible ways in which you could protect various elements of your app. To give yourself the maximum amount of protection, you should consider protecting as many of them as possible.
Trademarks protect brands. When designing the branding for your app, do so with the intention of trademarking it. This means you should make the app’s branding as distinctive as possible. Whilst you are developing your brand, carry out a trademark search to ensure there are no pre-existing brands that are likely to conflict with it.
If you register your brand as a trademark, you will have the exclusive right to use it for the products and services it’s registered for. If anyone else uses your branding (or something confusingly similar to it) for the same or similar goods or services you could take legal action against them for trademark infringement.
Copying your app and simply rebranding it would be a relatively simple exercise so trademarks alone are unlikely to give your app much protection. You must, therefore, look at protecting other elements of it too.
Catch up on some of David’s recent Business Advice articles:
If you create any unique icons and screen displays you may be able to protect them as registered designs. As with trademarks, you should carry out a registered design search to identify what designs other businesses have already protected.
A registered design is infringed when a new design doesnt give an overall different impression to the registered design. Therefore, you should keep this in mind whilst designing your icons and screen displays to ensure they are sufficiently different to anything that has already been registered.
David Walker is the founder of Grid Law, a firm which first targeted the motorsport industry, advising on sponsorship deals, new contracts and building of personal brands. He has now expanded his remit to include entrepreneurs, aiding with contract law, dispute resolution and protecting and defending intellectual property rights.
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