Take the 2-minute tour ×
Webmasters Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for pro webmasters. It's 100% free, no registration required.

While discussing a website idea I had with friends and worked on it, they told me to be wary of theft regarding the website. Since the code I'd be working on would be mostly JavaScript and HTML, the likelihood of theft is quite high. Furthermore, if I'm lucky, the idea I have would be a breakthrough when it comes to being useful.

So, you can see the problem here: I would be developing an application that's easily stolen, and unfortunately an application that companies larger than myself would want to provide.

I'm also unsure if this idea has already been patented. I realize patent law is murky, as in you can create a vague patent and still claim others are violating it.

So, I'd like to search existing patents for one that may be relevant to my idea, and I'd like to patent it in the meantime.

Does anyone have any experience regarding this? Should I invite a lawyer into the mix?

share|improve this question
1  
Google is quite good at knowing who is the original site, assuming there are copies. So even if someone copies, it will be very hard to attract SEO traffic to his site. In general, I'd suggest focusing on making it work, copying is never easy as it appears. Don't waste time worrying about things you don't have control over. If someone will try to copy your site, that's actually a good sign. –  Noam Jan 12 at 7:56
add comment

6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

You definitely will want to get a IP lawyer involved.

When I looked into this process a couple years ago, the initial cost for a patent search was $5,000-$10,000. The entire patent application process was going to be at least $15,000. You will also have to document the entire application inside and out for your lawyer.

I also learned that as soon as you make your web app public, if you don't have a patent already, it is no longer patentable in most countries. You do have up to one year after making the site public to file a patent application in the US, Australia, and (I believe) Canada, but for all other countries you are out of luck.

For some protection against copy-and-paste stealing of your HTML and JS, you can look into obfuscation, but if someone really wants the site, they will find a way to get it.

share|improve this answer
    
Did your estimate from the lawyer include patents in all those other countries, or no? (Also, thanks for your answer. I'll delay in a bit to approve for others, but you're looking good.) –  SoreThumb Jun 7 '11 at 21:55
    
I don't believe it included the other countries. Also, the quote was from a lawyer in Montana. It's likely to be higher in places like New York or LA. –  KJ-SRS Jun 7 '11 at 22:42
2  
That's not entirely true. You can search the USPTO yourself for patents, though it could take longer and might not be as thorough; at least it's free to do. However, there is an argument for NOT doing any patent searching as willful violation of patents is subject to double damages if you are sued and found to have willfully violated someone's patents. –  Bob Baddeley Jun 8 '11 at 15:11
    
Additionally, you can apply for a provisional patent as a small business, which costs less than $200 and doesn't have to be in legalese. The provisional patent is more like 'this is my idea. I'm still working on it but I promise to apply for a full patent within a year.' That way you have the protection of the patent, you can continue to work on your idea, and then if it works out within a year and you have resources then you can file the proper patent. One caveat is that some countries don't recognize this method so you will lose international patentability. –  Bob Baddeley Jun 8 '11 at 15:14
    
@BobBaddeley The suggestion on the provisional patent sounds great. I'll make sure that if I get in touch with an IP lawyer, we discuss that before I bring out the big guns of his/her briefcase. –  SoreThumb Jun 10 '11 at 19:42
add comment

Not every country honors patents. Even if you patent your idea, if your idea has profit potential, someone is going to steal it. You can make it harder to steal by moving enough parts of your logic to the server-side that it's more difficult to piece together with client-side script alone.

share|improve this answer
    
I realize that people'll steal my idea-- the upside of a patent in many of the countries that honor them is a legal defense. Furthermore, even if I move some part of my particular app server-side, what matters more is what the app does, not how it does it. (I realize patents can rely upon 'how it does it'. I suppose that'll be a discussion with an attorney, though.) –  SoreThumb Jun 8 '11 at 13:34
    
That's true about what the app "does" vs. "how it does it." But what if someone takes your idea and changes it around enough so it's not exactly the same - Would you play the cat and mouse game with them of trying to show infringement? I think one of your best defenses against theft is to build a brand so people know that yours is the trusted resource for doing whatever your app does. –  Will Peavy Jun 8 '11 at 16:01
    
I agree with you on the brand matter, Will. I've been throwing the constant waves of strength I get at it to get it moving. I just hope I can create a successful brand. –  SoreThumb Jun 10 '11 at 19:40
add comment

SoreThumb, it really depends on what you are trying to do. Its very common for people to think their idea is patentable, when it really isn't. Also, think about it.. if you patent it, and put it on the web, anybody from another country can choose to copy it.. (unless you restrict access.. but there' still some vulnerability). Will you have the resources to pursue them legally? Will you even get any results (more often than not, you won't). That's why, its REALLY not good to rely on your patent solely as a competitive advantage.. you will lose. Branding, your unique selling point, your edge and strategy to continually innovate is what will keep you winning.

Its so common for aspiring entrepreneurs to be paranoid about the security of their idea, but unless you really have something technically unique, don't worry about it too much.. spend mind power on the more important issues.. like is this really going to make me money? How will I stay competitive? etc. These are harder questions to answer and its really what matters.

Remember, no matter what, you will ALWAYS have competition if its a money maker. If you DON'T have competition, your in the wrong business (just common sense). (Actually, you NEVER really have NO competition, there's always an alternative). People will always try to copy you if what your doing is great and makes bank. So again, focus on the more important questions.

Do you even know if its a money maker yet? If you don't, create a protoype (with restricted access), show it around to prospective customers, then when you have proof, invest your $ to get a programmer to harden it up and move up in stages.

Hope that helps.

share|improve this answer
add comment

The question whether to patent something is about whether you have a free 15,000$ to spend on a patent application. In many cases it might be more useful to spend that money on programmers to actually get your website out there and attract users.

It's not so much a question about theft protection. Javascript and Html code is already protected by copyright. If someone just takes your Javascript you can sue them even if you don't have a patent.

share|improve this answer
    
Adding to this, patents just provide the right to sue, which also costs a great deal...and takes a long time to accomplish; so does obtaining a software patent, if you're able to at all. Due to the speed of software development, particularly for the web, even large companies forgo seeking software patents unless planning on licensing the technology. –  dan Jan 13 at 5:52
add comment

You can use JavaScript encryption or other tools to encrypt your code. Moreover, the web is an open community where there are many people who will use your code in any part of the globe and you will never know it. Then why should you need a lawyer?

share|improve this answer
    
I think I'd be OK with a license that allows others to use the code along with obvious and fair attribution. I'm afraid of things that happen, where a company that has more venture capital than a typical individual throws its funds into a high-quality, polished competitor and gets attention for "Doing it right". Ick.. Don't get me wrong, I think competition is good, but a patent protects ideas from things like this. –  SoreThumb Jun 10 '11 at 19:43
add comment

SoreThumb, I'll tell you the cold heart truth: Your idea, is most likely - not good, unoriginal and not something that is hard to architect, if this idea is so revolutionary, someone else probably thought about it, and executed it, most likely - better than you, by yourself can.

as an entrepreneur, writing some code, is the least of your concerns, the big concern is writing a little code and make sure that it's utilized.

It sounds that I'm against you, and trying to put you down, but the contrary is the truth, build what you want without the fear of losing, if you'll execute it moderately, you'll get to the next level where you'll need to think about patenting what it is that you do.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.