You’ve come up with a great idea for a software application and want to bring it to market. What are your next steps? If you merely have an idea and no programming skills, you need to meet with application developers that can transform your idea from brainchild to a viable piece of software. These professionals might be able to perform all functions of a product launch, from design and artwork to development and marketing. If you must involve outside entities in making your concept take off, follow some basic guidelines to protect your intellectual property from being stolen.
Applying for a patent is not a huge undertaking. The average Canadian can likely put most or all of the patent application together without any help from a lawyer or an agent. There are numerous publications to help you with the process. Initially, you have to perform a rigorous search to ensure that your idea hasn’t already been conceived and protected. Once that step is complete, you need to find at least one person to trust. Sketch out as much possible information on your idea and place it in a bound notebook. Review the information with a close friend, a lawyer, or a family member, and have them witness it. This document serves as dated proof of your idea, if there are ever court proceedings to determine originality and the timing of the invention. If you aren’t comfortable with the do-it-yourself approach, patent agents typically charge a lot less to file an application than lawyers do. You can even tackle some of the easier parts of the application on your own, leaving more complex areas such as stating legal claims to a professional. Once the process is complete, your application safeguards your software program from idea theft.
In the event you must consult with other parties for development or marketing, be certain to have those individuals sign a non-disclosure agreement in the absence of a patent application. Boilerplate NDAs are available on various websites, but proceed with caution. The most important aspect of an NDA is that it holds up in the event your ownership is ever legally challenged. Review the NDA with a lawyer to assure that the agreement is ironclad or better yet, have an intellectual property lawyer create the document for you.
Perhaps the best approach in protecting your work involves telling no one. If you have all the necessary skills to develop and launch the software by yourself, shrouding your concept in secrecy assures that only you will have knowledge of the invention. Any leaks would result only from your lack of willpower. Your ideas may be destined to generate significant revenue. Don’t allow any competing parties to hijack all or part of your ideas. The burden to prove originality will fall on you in a legal battle. Stay armed with some legitimate protections of your own.