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So I have a great idea for a new website. However, not the time to develop it.

I would like to hire a person or company to design it for me.

What steps do I need to take, to protect my idea?

Where and how do people protect website ideas in general?

Also, how easy is it for someone to tweak the idea and make it legally heir own? Is a patent enough to protect such a thing, idea. Are there different levels or types of protection?

Thank You.

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5 Answers 5

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What steps do I need to take, to protect my idea?

I am not a lawyer, but I would bet you'll want a contract with a non-compete clause - you will have to talk to a lawyer to get relevant answers to the rest of your questions, as the law will vary by jurisdiction and you'll certainly need representation if there is a breach of contract.

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1  
Also, a non-discolsure agreement will help scare them enough to make them think twice. –  Jason Jan 9 '11 at 5:23
2  
It could also scare off good developers who would never work under conditions that could restrict developing stuff on their own that are grey area or potentially could be mis-construded into being competitive. I may not have the legal power ($) to defend my little side project from a corporation who believes it classifies it as competitive even if in actuality it is not –  Anthony Hatzopoulos Sep 8 '12 at 0:58

I hereby solemnly swear that while sitting at my workstation and under the roof of my employer, "Company X", that any idea I have and/or express aloud and/or any idea heard by my ears shall wholly belong to "Company X" and all derivative of said ideas thereof.

You'll be hard pressed to get anyone to sign something remotely close to that bit of nonsense. Some US states are better for this sort of thing (TX) and others not so much (CA). Then you have other countries where classic US patent law falls apart completely (China). Good luck preventing a Chinese based manufacturer from potentially reverse engineering your product, re-branding it and ooutright selling it to WalMart at bottom dollar.

In simple terms: you can't, or at least I don't think you can. And I would say you have no real guarantees. Ideas are only that - ideas. You could get a patent but even then they're only good according to the country in which they are made in and legal in. What say I move my evil-idea-stealing-camp out on an island or a "pirate-ship" or something in the middle of the south pacific where your country may have no jurisdiction. That movie about Facebook (albeit maybe exagerated) came to my mind when I read this question. The Social Network

If tomorrow I decide to create a "better" social network, who's to stop me from using ideas originally thought up from someone else?

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A business/website takes a lot more than simply coding. If a single coder can come along and so easily steal the whole thing, than it wasn't a great idea and most likely already exists, presumably up on github. I think you are not putting enough value on the marketing and ongoing running of the site. If you say there is none, I refer back to it is probably not a great idea.

Protecting the code can be done, but based on the fact that you are asking stack exchange and not your team of lawyers, then it probably is never going to economically make sense.

Hire well, take time to actually find someone that you can trust, has a good reputation. And don't worry about what will probably only be a small portion of the actual business.

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This is complicate. You should follow @danlefree points, but there are a few things you should have in mind.

You can hire someone and enforce this person/entity to not compete with you using the same idea, but you can't have 100% sure this person entity will not inform same things to other people/entities and share the incoming from there. Think in another country for example. You can have a great idea, hire people to develop it, then this people/entity makes the same thing thourgh a business partner, but on another country. Yeap, seems paranoia, but can happen.

In the other hand is: what if only you think your idea is great? There are people - like me for example - who is only interested on developing stuff, not making business. I had a client like you once.

Really, the guy was overconcerned with the idea I would not engage in a compete with him. In my point of view, it was an interesting project, but my pleasure is write, run, test and deploy, not making calls and paying lunches with boring clients.

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Idea can't be a subject of a patent. To protect it with a patent, you need to have at least a prototype of a product which this idea is supposed to be at the end.

You should comprehend that idea itself worth nothing and isn't material. Because tommorow my brain can generate the exact idea that you have today. And no one can protect you from another's mind.

There is another side of this question. Everybody in the world got an idea. And before someone will want to steal stranger's idea, he need to be told why this particular stranger's idea is better than his own one. He need to know why he should work with your idea and not with his own one. And mostly one chooses to work with his own ideas, since he understands them more correctly just because he generated them himself.

And it's highly unlikely that a developer you want to hire will tell you that he don't want to work with you, then take your idea and make a product from it. Because if he's a really good developer, he got dozens of ideas himself.

Moreover, development process is very complicated thing that is consisted of many decisions that developers, managers and stakeholder constantly making. Everyone can take your idea, but no one is able to make the same decisions you make. Thus, no one can make the same product you want to make.

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