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Software Development

How safe is your Intellectual Property in an outsourced relationship?

date: 7 October 2010
reading time: 3 min

A few years ago I met with a potential client who had a great product idea, but was unable to do the required programming himself and therefore was looking for an offshore software development partner.

A few years ago I met with a potential client who had a great product idea, but was unable to do the required programming himself and therefore was looking for an offshore software development partner. However he was rather worried that the partner he might choose could abscond with his intellectual property, leaving him with nothing – think of the accusations the Winklevoss twins laid at Mark Zuckerberg’s door with regards to Facebook.

While not irrational, this fear can in fact be easily dismissed. Reputable software outsourcers will always have confidentiality and intellectual property clauses in their contracts. If you choose an outsourcer from an EU member state, they will also be governed by strict EU intellectual property law, which in the unlikely event of something going wrong, will give you rapid recourse.

Additionally, in the case of Future Processing, and probably many other offshore software development companies, our reputation is a key factor in customers choice – we need to do everything in our power to keep up our good name and would therefore never consider doing anything illegal or not in our clients’ best interests. Rarely clients choose to leave the core part of a project for their in-house team to develop and give smaller or more tangential elements to their software development outsourcer. This may sound like a good idea and a way of keeping core knowledge within your company, but in the long run it is likely to cause more problems than it solves and end up costing you more. The in-house team still has other work to do and so can end up overloaded with work and behind schedule on their development for the project, whereas the outsourcer’s team doesn’t have enough to do and is quite literally twiddling their thumbs. The customer is not maximising the outsourcer’s skills and the fact they the in-house team remains so busy while their partners are not can cause ill feeling. Consequently the relationship goes bad and the project is much more likely to fail.

Generally, after a while the customer comes to realise that they have to treat their offshore team as past of their in-house team and they let the outsourcer work on the core project elements. If at this point you are still worried about the risk of losing your IP, perhaps you have chosen the wrong software development partner, or outsourcing is not for you.

To successfully outsource your software development you must be able to trust your outsourcing partner.If you trust them, you know that they will not steal your IP.

What do you think?

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