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IP tips for software exporters

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Part program creation, part marketing, software is almost 100 percent intellectual property, which is why it is important to understand how your IP should be protected.

  • Ensure all staff have intellectual property agreements so rights are assigned to the company. Many businesses also fail to document their dealings and agree on their intellectual property position with respect to joint venture partners and contractors.
  • Enter into a written agreement with customers to ensure intellectual property rights are retained by the business and not owned by the customer.
  • Give thought to a unique domain name that uniquely identifies your product.
  • Consider trademark protection of the company name and various product names. It is useful to search to ascertain whether that name can be used in all jurisdictions.
  • Consider whether to publish any information for the purposes of defeating any potential patent claims. A software business may decide it is unable to afford international patent protection, therefore a strategy would be to publish the gist of their innovative technology so no one else can patent it.
  • Consider filing a Madrid application in relation to your trademarks. Likewise, consideration should be given as to any patents (if any should be extended) and the business model they would like to use in relation to exporting.
  • Have a good distribution agreement that will permit the Australian company to ensure it takes care of all protection that may be applied for in the local jurisdiction: trademarks, domain names etc.
  • With regard to piracy, do not supply the source code to your customer, and ensure that you have an appropriate physical locking mechanism. Many commercial customers will not use software not supported and/or current, to ensure there are no security threats. Support is your key to maintaining the integrity of your locks.

-Steve White is principal of Steve White Computer Law

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