Protecting Intellectual Property for Technology Companies

The times when we perceived tangible goods as the foundation for businesses are over. Ideas rule the world nowadays. Many startups attract millions of dollars in investments without even creating a final product. What do investors pay for? Intellectual property, of course.

The total value of Fortune 500 companies contained 87% IP value, and only 13% tangible assets, according to a 2015 report by Ocean Tomo.

Despite being so valuable, intellectual rights are also the least secure when you treat them wrong. Losing them can undermine the whole existence of a tech startup. That’s why legal protection such as patents, secured trademarks, and outsourcing NDAs are very important to be in order even before the development stage.

How can IT companies protect intellectual property?

Intellectual property for IT companies and startups has several registration options:

  • Copyrights
  • Trademarks
  • Trade secrets
  • Patents

To find out exactly what form of IP protection your project needs, you should determine the following variables:

  1. What does your IP consist of?
  2. How is your IP legally protected?

In the end, it will still probably come down to the three forms of protection mentioned above.

What is the difference between copyrights, patents, and trade secrets?

A copyright is a way of IP protection that deals mostly with the way your software solves a certain problem. A copyright doesn’t protect the idea your project is based on, but rather the product this idea comes to life in. Copyright protection best applies to source code, object code, and user interfaces.

A <patent works the other way around: it can effectively protect your idea, but neither the code nor the final product. Patents can protect general architecture of apps and unique algorithms your developers come up with.

Also note, that applying for patents is a costly process. If you are a small tech startup, the chances are you wouldn’t be able to afford professional middle-men to do it for you. And wouldn’t even bother going through the hell of doing it yourselves.

Trade secrets mostly deal with the information about technology, product, or market you discover, use, but decide to keep away from the public eye. Trade secrets don’t need to be published and can be held by you until someone else discovers the same.

Many clients coming to us for custom mobile and web development express their concerns about code and idea protection. All the entrepreneurs care about their business and trusting someone with the technological core of it can be pretty exposing.

That’s why today we’ll tell you how we at OZiTAG make sure your intellectual property is protected and your product stays unique.

How copyrights apply to source code and how to protect your source code.

Protecting source code can be divided in two major categories:

  • Product owners have to make sure that source code is their intellectual property and not a developer’s.
  • Product owners have to make sure that all the details about the technical side of their product are considered confidential.

So How does copyright protection apply to source code? Code in general can be seen as an original work of authorship, so the results of source code creation can be protected by copyright laws.

But coding also involves lots of routine, non-unique tasks that are essential for the product can’t really be protected by copyright. What to do then? That’s where so-called “merger doctrine” comes into action.

It states: whenever it’s understood that there are a limited number of ways a task can be completed, developers or product owners are prohibited from using copyright to prevent others from using the same methods in their work.

How can you get copyright protection for your source code?

Theoretically, you get a copyright automatically whenever source code is written or a program is compiled. But to really protect your creations from unauthorized copies, you need to apply for a certificate of registration of a copyrightable work from the United States Copyright Office.

The duration of a certain copyright can vary, but the minimum term is always 70 years from the date of the product official creation. Although you can fill in an application for a copyright online, the certificate will take power in around four months.

Copyright protection applies to all the source code, even if some parts of it are released as open source data. As a part of the copyright application process, you as the owner of the product are able to leave certain parts of source code as your company’s trade secrets, and leave some for open publication.

If you want to find more details about how exactly you can file copyright registrations for your source code, check out  copyright registration for computer programs guidelines.

How do we protect your code at OZiTAG?

Well, first of all, we follow all the European Union laws on IP protection, in particular the Directive on the legal protection of computer programs.

This document, also known as the Software Directive, states that if a computer program is created by an employee in the execution of his or her duties or following the instructions given by his or her employer, the employer has exclusive rights to the software program that is created. In short: if you order – you are the sole owner.

It’s also important for many of our clients to protect their ideas and secrets from the get-go. Startup stuff, you know. That’s why we agree to sign a comprehensive NDA at the stage of initial project negotiation.

A well-done NDA or confidentiality agreement will mean that you don’t have to worry about sharing information with our team of developers. Non-disclosure agreements with us are free and usually, don’t have expiration dates. To sum it up:

  • We are compliant with EU intellectual property protection laws.
  • We always sign non-disclosure agreements. We have our own default NDA template, but the opportunities for its customization are limited only by the interests of your business.Moreover, we usually agree to make amendments to contracts and NDAs if, for instance, you come up with a whole new idea right in the middle of software development process.

We always encourage our innovative clients to sign early NDAs and apply for necessary patents. Just try to do your best thinking of a whole IP protection plan before you start acting. And remember: your ideas are valuable but still vulnerable.

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