Why Intellectual Property Rights for Your Mobile App are the LAST Things You Should Be Thinking About
Your mobile app idea is so good you need to protect it. Really.
You’ve done your research, put your team together, mapped out your features. Maybe you’ve even decided on a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Your development team is in place and ready to go.
But before you set them loose, you’re worried about word getting out to your competition. So first, let’s get this intellectual property issue taken care of.
While there are some situations where that might be a valid strategy, in the vast majority of cases I’ve seen over the years, it’s precisely the wrong thing to do. In this article, I’m going to explain why, in most cases, intellectual property rights should be among the last things you’re thinking about.
Stalling Your Progress
So what happens when you decide to protect your mobile app first?
Your project team is ready, but now you’re putting them into a holding pattern. Excitement and enthusiasm — not to mention momentum — start to dwindle. Wait too long, and morale starts to drop, too. And instead of getting your engineers involved, you’re calling in the lawyers.
Obviously, that’s not an auspicious start for your mobile app. So even if you decide to pursue software intellectual property rights up front, you should at least unleash your development team at the same time. I’ll explain why next.
Wait For It?
Realistically, you’re not going to wait for a response to your intellectual property rights filing anyway.
Because even after you complete all the research and fill out the documents and submit your claim, you’re facing a significant wait period.
I’m not talking a few weeks, either. I’m talking months. Years even, in some cases.
According to Gerben Law Firm, PLLC, you should “budget a year (at a bare minimum) to get your application approved and be assured of the benefits of trademark protection.” Yes, you’ll get a receipt upon filing that may provide some measure of protection. But that’s just a timestamp, really. It’s not protecting anything unless your trademark is eventually approved.
And for a patent? RocketLawyer estimates the average wait time to be about three years from filing to receiving a patent. However, they also mention that high-traffic fields such as computer software can take twice that long… even if you’re not required to file any special or follow-up documentation.
Since there’s no way you’re going to sit on your app idea for three to six years waiting on a patent, why not just get started? Turn your development team loose and if you still want that patent, you can work on it alongside them.
Every Day Counts
In nearly every situation, speed is better protection than the courts.
If you have such a great app idea, someone else out there might have it, too. Or a competitor might hear about it and decide to jump on it. Whatever the reasons, you could be in a race to get your app to market.
So what’s going to be more important? Winning that race to market, establishing a customer base, and building an even better app from their feedback? Or relying on the courts to protect you from any infringements down the road — assuming your patent is eventually approved in the next few years.
That race should mean everything to you. Every day you delay is one more day your competition can “jump in” or “catch up.” Your best bet is to push forward quickly and get to market first.
Looking Backwards vs. Forwards
Think about it. The whole point of intellectual property rights is to guard your ideas from the competition. So to do that, you’re looking back over your shoulder… instead of looking forward to the prize.
With a disciplined development team, this might not be a problem for them. But it is for you, the business owners and stakeholders. It’s difficult, to say the least, to focus on your app’s future when too much attention is spent worrying about safeguarding your progress from the competition.
You Can’t See the Future
And here’s one of the biggest problems when it comes to applying for software intellectual property rights: you can’t see the future of your app.
Sure, you can see what you think your mobile app is going to be. But until you actually get your software into the hands of real customers, you’re never going to know what that app needs to be.
That’s where many companies fail when designing their mobile apps — assuming they know exactly what the market needs up front. But that’s exactly what’s required to file a patent, too. You need to lock in what your mobile app is going to be in order to accurately describe it in your filings.
I hope you believe me when I say you don’t want that. You don’t want to lock in anything beyond your MVP. Instead, you want to be flexible. You want your app to evolve in the ways your customers want it to evolve — not in ways you force it to at the outset of your project.
Finding the Right Time for Software IP Rights
Yes, there’s a time and a place for protecting your Intellectual Property rights. But how you do it, and when, could make a big difference in your mobile app’s success. And always keep in mind that speed to market is often more effective protection than any court can give.
Angelo is a successful entrepreneur with over 20+ years leading teams in a diverse group of industry verticals. Today his focus is on helping those that need to design and build mission-critical software applications with a particular focus on Healthcare Tech, Ed-Tech, Fin-Tech and IoT applications.
He is presently VP of Business Development at Ascendle, a U.S.-based contract software development firm in the greater Boston area that delivers custom commercial cloud, web, and mobile app solutions.
This article first appeared on the Ascendle blog.