Take a step back in time, and any business will affirm that the vast majority of their assets were tied to the physical aspects of the company; the bricks and mortar and the stock and equipment used to run the business effectively. However, in recent years, the world has seen a dramatic shift in where business owners place their value. As technological development races forwards, so too does the face of enterprise itself, and recent times have seen the radical change in business assets; with a huge number of companies citing intellectual property as far more valuable than their premises or physical products. With the rise of mobile phones, tablets and other portable devices, comes an inevitable rise in software development; with a number of companies focusing solely on developing innovative software applications to keep up with the ever growing demand. But how can you protect your software design? What IPRs are in place to help you to ensure that your software idea isn’t under threat from a competitor?
Patenting Your Software
Of course, acquiring a patent is a great place to start. Providing your software development is original, useful and ‘non-obvious’, this is an excellent route to take to ensure that your software development is protected for many years. Patents can be obtained online and once your development has been approved, you can be confident that it will be well protected, and that infringement of patent rights incurs ferocious penalties, deterring even the most foolhardy competitor from attempting to steal your intellectual property.
While Waiting for that All-Important Patent…
It is reassuring to know that, whilst waiting for the patent to be approved, you are also protected by copyright law. Even more reassuringly, this is automatic and does not need to be applied for. In general cases, copyright extends until 50 years after the death of the author; and in the case of software development, work would be considered protected until 75 years after the initial publication or launch. However, copyright does not offer the same legal protection as patenting; and at best, can only be relied upon as a basic deterrent.
Protecting Your Company and its Intellectual Property
Patenting your software and being aware of current copyright laws are both highly effective in making sure that your product works solely for you, and for no-one else. Investing in additional insurance, particularly if your software application is likely to yield excellent ROI, is often a sensible course of action. Purchasing additional cover on tablets, portable devices and other hardware is always a wise decision, especially if these devices are vital in the continued development of your product. Insurance can also help protect your company against issues such as loss of revenue due to an interruption in the business; for example, a key employee being off work for an extended period of time. There are a variety of things to consider when working out how best to protect your software concept; and above all else, it is vital to appreciate that this doesn’t start and end with the product itself.
Keeping it Secret
It can be tempting, especially with the significance in recent years of social networking, to share aspects of your business with a wide audience, without thinking of the bigger implications. Social networking is a powerful tool, but it is prudent to remember that it also allows your competitors a level of visibility into your business practices. If your software application is original and innovative, it can sometimes be more effective to maintain a level of secrecy. Conversely, if you are concerned about infringing the copyright of another developer, you might want to consider searching for insurance that covers new technology such as software, and can help protect you, should another company attempt to sue you for copyright infringement.
Protecting an innovative software product is something that should be considered from the very start of the process. After all, your company has invested considerable time and energy in its development; and nothing can be more soul-destroying than watching whilst a competitor steals your concepts and makes an easy profit from your hard work.
Apply for the patent, know your IPRs and make certain that you are insured as best as possible against all possible risks. Then sit back, relax, and watch your software generate revenue, safe in the knowledge that it is working for your company…and only for your company!