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header image - an app developer's perspective on how to protect your app idea

An app developer's perspective

3 ways to protect your app idea. #2 will surprise you!

You have an awesome app idea.

We know, we hear hints about people's great ideas all day long.

A typical call will go something like this:

Customer: "I want to make an app. How much do they cost?"

Snappy Apps: "Sure. What kind of app do you want to make?"

Customer: "I don't want to give my idea away, can you please just give me an idea of price"

Snappy Apps: "Well, we have done apps between $1500 and $100,000 and counting"

Customer: "... ... ... it needs a map does that help?"

Snappy Apps: "..."

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How do we fix this stalemate, while still protecting your idea?

There are a few ways. The first thing to remember is that your idea is probably not unique. What is unique is that nobody has yet gone to the effort and expense to make your app idea a success. There is also a chance that somebody has gone to that effort. But that is a different story.

So, first things first, protecting your idea legally.

1. The Non Disclosure Agreement (NDA)

I have seen more NDAs than I care to admit. An NDA is a legal document that says you are not allowed to tell anyone anything about your idea. 

There is some question around whether you can even enforce an NDA so take them with a grain of salt. We have never had to worry about that side of things luckily.

I have signed all but two NDAs that have come my way, and those two tried to slip in a non-compete clause. Now, I don't have an issue with non-compete clauses in general, but before I know your idea, I can't sign it. It could be just a map in an app (see above!)

The other thing I don't need is a mutual NDA. I am happy to protect your idea, but if you want to discuss my pricing with my competitors - have at it. This might not apply to all app developers, but we like to keep things transparent.

You can find some NDA templates here:

NDA Template 1

NDA Template 2

NDA Template 3

For the longest time we didn't suggest an NDA at all because its a bit of a conflict of interest. We shouldn't be giving you the tools to protect you from us. So please feel free to Google your own.

2. Tell other people about your idea

Thats right. Unlike every other clickbaity title, number 2 did surprise you.

How can spreading my idea help protect my idea? Let me explain.

At heart I am an entrepreneur, and since IT is my skill, naturally thats the sort of things I like to create. So I will ponder my idea. I will break my rules about not building anything until I prove my idea. I will get excited. Then I will tell a confidant about my idea.

Their response? "Oh, such and such is already doing that"

The colour drains from your face. You feel deflated. All that excitement. Gone.

Just because someone else is already doing your idea, you should give up. They killed my dream because "They were already doing it"

3. Go out and do it already.

Of course this seems like a natural extension to number 2. If you aren't going to do something about your idea, someone else will.

So whats better than someone else saying "Oh such and such is already doing it"?

Being able to show them that you are that "such and such". And that you are already doing it.

There are a lot of challenges in being first to market, but many benefits too. One is that you scare off less motivated people. You stop them from trying, which means you have the edge.

When I started writing this I wasn't expecting to give a rousing call to action, but hey, if you got this far. Give us a call.

Sure, we are going to ask you what your idea is. ve you a better idea too. But the main thing is you did something.

But what about patents and trademarks?

I have been doing this full time since 2014, and I am yet to see an idea that needs a patent. Trademarks, sure, maybe? But only once you get started.

The conventional wisdom about patents is: your patent is only as good as your ability to enforce it.

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Author - Ryan Knell, Managing Director of Snappy Apps. Snappy Apps is an app developer servicing Brisbane and the Gold Coast.