IP protection: cloud-platform start-up

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IP protection: cloud-platform start-up

Our client, an  IT start-up, develops a cloud-computing software platform. We identified, established, protected, registered & exploited their IP rights

Intellectual property rights: identification, protection & registration

Different intellectual property rights emerge at every stage of the software development process. We identified, protected and registered their intellectual property.

Concept

Usually the first development step defines the product concept. This includes decisions about the:

  • What problem the solution solves;
  • Underlying development environment;
  • The product’s look and feel.

To be “first to market”, the company wants to keep their information and ideas secret. However, many start-up mentors recommend discussing these ideas with potential users, commentators, investors and consultants. A small tweak might transform the product’s early adoption.

NDA’s and confidentiality agreements protect product development plans.

Implementation

Implementation involves coding the solution.  Copyright protects source code. There may be protection using database rights.  Thus competitors are prohibited from copying the source code without prior consent.

User interface development

Dropbox famously started with a powerpoint showing it’s user interface and workflow. The founder asked if anyone wanted to pay to beta test an early version. He was overwhelmed by demand, although there was nothing available to actually test. Nevertheless, the founder knew people would pay for his product, before he started development.

We protected the user interface with design rights. We also trademarked our clients’  brand name and logo across the UK, EU and Internationally.

Investment

Our client planned to first develop and launch a solution, then obtain investment for expansion and business development.  Potential investors will demand they review the software solution. The company, and its actual investors,  naturally want their technical innovations to remain confidential.

We create a bespoke non-disclosure and confidentiality agreement that potential investors signed.

Establish ownership

As soon as software development begun, we ensured our client recorded each software development step. The records enable our client to prove ownership of its intellectual property.

In addition, we asked our client to mark their work with a copyright notice. Everyone then knows our client owns the copyright, which deters potential infringers.

Our client’s software development team comprised employees and consultants. The normal rule is employers own the work created by employees during the course of their employment.  To avoid any risk of ownership disputes, we ensured the employment documentation and consultant contracts assigned all IP rights to our client. .

For additional protection, we created confidentiality agreements for commissioned work, and work shown to third parties.

Exploitation

We then identified our client’s exploitation options. We assessed each options advantages against their business objectives.

The resulting bespoke scheme required a combination of customer agreements, for individual users and companies, comprising:

  • Licence agreements;
  • End user agreements;
  • Software as a service agreement.

Bespoke licensing agreement can potentially generate significant revenue. Our agreement protected our client’s IP rights, and left no potential revenue on the table.  For instance, customers could not:

  • Give-away the product;
  • Sub-licence the product;
  • Reverse engineer the product.