Five Methods to Safeguard Your Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property (IP) is the secret sauce that makes your software the best. Like any secret, its value lies in how well you keep it. The famous Scottish soft drink, Irn Bru, is a case in point. Only two or three people in the world know the entire list of ingredients that make it. A US example is the famous “Eleven secret herbs and spices” for original recipe KFC. This proprietary information is a treasure!

So what is an example of IP that you, as a software project owner, should be guarding? If you were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, your main IP would be the algorithms that make this search engine giant the market leader. Or if you were a coder who worked out a way to make websites run faster and you wanted to sell it, letting on how to do it is not going to get you far! Another example is a great logo or interface design for an app that you don’t want people to mistake for someone else’s brand.

The concepts behind your software that makes it unique are your IP.

5 steps for IP protection

When dealing with a software outsourcing vendor, you could be handing them your secrets. How do you protect yourself from leaks or infringement of your IP?

1. Trustworthy teams

First and foremost, you have to pick the right team. A trustworthy team will have not only a good reputation, but also the resources to protect your program code and ideas. You need them to restrict who gets access to it and have security systems in place to guard it.

Beware! The country that you offshore to may have differing standards of protection and respect for IP. See the second post in my Outsourcing Success Series to find out more about IP protection in different territories.

2. Sign on the dotted line

The second way to protect your IP is with paperwork. Contracts, NDAs (Non-disclosure Agreements), NCAs (Non-compete Agreements) and letters of intent will all work towards keeping your secrets safe.

As in step 1, the laws of each country will differ with how strongly contract laws are enforced, but you simply cannot afford to skip this step.

3. Put your stamp on it

Trademarks and patents will also help cover you. For example, Facebook is identified as the owner of a patent for a “System and method for dynamically providing a news feed about a user of a social network”.

The process of obtaining patents and trademarks can be difficult and time-consuming, and you might have to repeat the process in different countries, but it may well be worth it if you have the next billion-dollar offering on your hands.

4. The gatekeeper

Another way to protect your software’s IP is to create your own API (Application Programming Interface) which is where programmers have access to the functions of your code, but not the code itself.

An example of this is Twitter, where you might connect to the API to list your company’s latest tweets in a news feed on your own website, but don’t see the back-end code.

5. Compartmentalize

A final method is to allow outsourced programmers to have access to only the parts of the code or data that you need them to see. As long as they have what they need to work with, this will prevent any one person seeing the whole picture, unless you need them to.

With all these techniques, the first is still the most important. Finding the right team will smooth your path to outsourcing software success!
Feel free to go ahead and book a strategy session with me now, to discuss your requirements!

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