Topic: Protecting business idea

Hi all,

Since I am still such a noob at this, I was hoping you guys could help me get an idea whether this is a feasible plan for my upcoming project.

I am an entrepreneur and since I still lack the ROR programming experience, I need to hire a contractor.  However, what's at risk is my business idea itself since table names and category names would need to be provided to the employee.  To combat this risk, I was hoping to use 'code words' or generic table & category names for which I would go back to change in both my programming and my database afterwards. 

So my question really is, how difficult and time-consuming would it be for me to go back and change all the references in the programming?  Is there some software or utility that would allow me to just find and replace automatically?  What do you guys think?

Thanks in advance!

Re: Protecting business idea

In general I'd say that without RoR knowledge it is quite difficult (except perhaps for very small apps), with RoR experience it depends on many factors.

However,  in my experience, not providing detailed info to the developer is a huge mistake (and I'm an entrepreneur / business owner myself for most of my 24-hours-a-day).  Our developers are expected to think about e.g. how users would actually use the system, what formats certain data make sense, etc. rather than blindly code a spec (which you're unlikely to be able to provide to this extent anyway).  It's very rare that developers try to start a business with your idea; either they have their own and/or they are developers and not entrepreneurs for a good reason.  (You may or may not agree, but you may want to read this.)

My two cents.

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Re: Protecting business idea

This is precisely what a contract is for. Write it so that you own all of the intellectual property created during the work.

Re: Protecting business idea

This is probably best handled with a non-disclosure agreement.   You can find boilerplate on the web.  You basically say,  "I am about to disclose to you an invention regarding X (say a cure for cancer involving grape jelly and snails).   This information is mine and you cannot disclose it to anyone,  or use it yourself for any profit in any way."

The trick is you have to be specific enough to prove that anything that results is clearly a result of the information you disclosed to the contractor,  but the agreement can't divulge enough information so that the contractor could decide NOT to sign it,  and try to steal the idea.

i.e.

a Cure for Cancer involving Grape Jelly and Snails -- OK

a Cure for Cancer involving extracting a protein found only in processed grape jelly and combining with the spinal fluid found in common garden snails -- TOO much info.

Joe got a job, on the day shift, at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen, arrogantly twisting the sterile canvas snout of a fully charged icing anointment utensil.

Re: Protecting business idea

As Boomerang said, you have to tell your programming contractor exactly what you're looking to accomplish...otherwise, you'll spend a ton of money and not get anything near what you are looking for.

And, as Brad said, a confidentiality Agreement is your best bet here.  Oh, and also, it sounds like you haven't yet rented (seen) The Social Network. 

In short, if someone wants to steal your idea, you are eff'd...unless they get rich at which point you might be able to litigate.  Be sure to do some due diligence on the person you're looking to hire.