One of the most frequent nightmare scenarios are clients face arise when a company has a great idea for a new app and contracts with a developer to build it for them. The app is successful and profitable, and everyone’s happy until the company gets a letter from the developer’s lawyer demanding an accounting of all profits from the app.
It might sound absurd, but without a written, signed contract from the developer in which he or she assigns all of his or her rights in the app to the company, the ownership of the intellectual property stays with the developer.
Read that paragraph again. It’s one of the most important things we can ever tell you.
And it’s not just true for software developers. This same rule applies in almost every case to copywriters, photographers, muralists, and graphic designers – anyone who isn’t an employee of yours and who is creating copyrightable work product of yours. Employees are different – the work they create in the scope of their employment automatically belongs to their employer. But how much of what an employee learns on the job can he take with him to his next job, possibly with one of your competitors? We can work with you to make sure all your employees are covered by the appropriate non-competition and non-disclosure agreements so that your company’s know-how doesn’t walk out the door with them.
We can make sure you have the agreement you need to get you the ownership you’re supposed to have. The agreement should also lay out all the expectations on both sides as to the features and final look of the product, when the developer is going to get paid for reaching certain goals, and what the procedure is for deciding when the project is “finished.”
It is also important to know exactly what it is that you are going to own when the project is done. In the case of a developer, for example, a lot of the code they may use in your project will be open source.
Rick Sanders Law can help you navigate the ownership questions that can arise all along the creative channels. Contact us now, before the questions start getting harder and harder to answer.