IP protection of cloud platform for start-up

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Gannons developed IP protection to safeguard an IT start-up.

Our client, the IT start-up, developed a cloud-computing trading platform. We helped them identify, establish, protect, register and exploit their IP rights.

IP protection: identification and registration of rights

Different IP rights emerge at every stage of the software development process. We identified, protected and registered our client’s IP at every stage of the process, from the initial concept through to exploiting the rights.

Concept

Usually the first development step defines the product concept. This includes making decisions about what problem the product solves, the underlying development environment, and the product’s look and feel.

Because our client was the “first to market” in this particular area, the company wanted 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 emerging from such discussions might transform the product’s early adoption.

Non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality agreements protect product development plans in these early stages.

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 presentation showing its 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 to review the software solution. The company, and its actual investors, naturally want their technical innovations to remain confidential.

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

Establishing ownership

As soon as software development began, we ensured our client recorded each step of the software development process. These records enable our client to prove their ownership of their IP.

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

Exploitation

Finally, we identified our client’s options for exploiting their IP. We assessed the advantages of each options, weighed up against the business objectives of our client.

Bespoke agreements

The resulting bespoke scheme required a combination of customer agreements, for individual users and companies. The documentation we compiled included licence agreements, end user agreements, and software as a service agreements.

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, sub-licence or reverse engineer the product. Thereby, because our client’s IP rights were protected in this way, their revenue stemming from it was maximised.

  • We felt in great hands as we were guided through every step of the process by Gannons