Intellectual property (IP) refers to “a range of different, legally enforceable rights that arise from the productive new ideas you create”. As product developers, the question of IP comes up often, so we wanted to share some insight on things to look out for during the product development journey.
Generally, there are three areas of product development where the consideration of IP is important:
- At the start – Ensuring you get a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place
- During Development – Understanding the distinction between Background & Foreground IP
- Product Design completion – Assignment of IP, Patent protection and other forms of legal protection
Am I signing a non-disclosure agreement?
Disclosing detailed information about your product with potential development partners is necessary so you can gauge their capability to do the job. It allows them to think about your specific product, it’s challenges and detail an approach to build it for you. An NDA allows these conversations to happen freely and we have a straightforward, mutual NDA that’s been developed over 12 years of building products for other people. It is important for you as a client to protect your IP and an NDA (a legally binding contract that will ensure nobody discloses your idea without your permission) or confidentiality agreement is a great way to do it.
Do I have the rights to all Foreground IP?
Intellectual property can be broken down into two categories: Background and Foreground IP.
This is the IP that you have coming into a meeting. It can be as small as the idea for a product or your homemade beta device. A non-disclosure agreement is something that will ensure your background IP is protected. Equally, your developer will bring their skills, knowledge and experience to the table, which is their Background IP. When talking to your developer it is important to ensure that you will have royalty free access to that IP.
This is the new IP created during development of your product. Unlike your background IP where a non-disclosure agreement will protect you, foreground IP can be a little trickier. For example, during the development process we take your initial concept/device or idea (your background IP), use our background IP and that of component manufacturers or software providers to build new hardware and software.
This will create a new and unique device that fits your description. This then becomes foreground IP, and should be assigned to you without royalties and free of charge, assuming all commercial agreements have been met. It is important when meeting with potential developers that you discuss the foreground IP. Doing so will ensure that once the product is complete, you own the rights.
How do I protect my product now that it’s on the market?
The final area you should look at when considering your Intellectual Property is patent protection. You have a few options here. You can either keep your idea as a trade secret- like Coca Cola who only let those who need to know the ingredients in on the recipe. We often see companies take this approach with algorithms, if they are the secret sauce of the product. The alternative is to patent your idea which means you will disclose the way you create something. However it does prevent anybody else from creating and selling what you have made for a period of time. The decision on whether something is different for each situation and does require professional legal advice. Do your research on patent attorneys, talk to product development companies and other legal professionals you may know to get a handle on who is decent near you.
We hope that’s help to shed some light on the question of IP and has left you free to keep coming up with great ideas!