Overcoming app angst – how procurement can avoid IP issues

It seems everyone wants an app: a digital application that can be launched from a mobile device.  From the obvious – such as travel bookings or food ordering – to the downright obscure, like turning your iPhone into a device that blows out candles (yes, really).

The hotel and leisure industry is finding increasingly creative ways to use technology, both remotely and inside premises themselves. A recent survey by the National Restaurant Association in the US revealed that more than two thirds of consumers are more likely to use tech-related options in restaurants now than they would two years ago, with 32% being prepared to use a smartphone app to pay their bill for example.

Health and nutrition-based apps – such as the Coeliac Map, or brand/equipment-specific gym training monitors – are also gaining popularity, helped by the latest buzz of wearable technology.  It is therefore understandable that organisations are getting caught up in the enthusiasm of creating their own apps.

Yet, app development could be costing unwary companies thousands of pounds more than necessary, simply because the initial procurement process has left them vulnerable; holding no rights to the intellectual property of their own app and no control over ongoing development costs.

The focus

Articles and comment by Occumen on this subject will focus on securing the rights of ownership and useage at the point of initial contract, as well as monitoring and controlling ongoing costs.

Where appropriate, an Occumen-specific case study will be used to demonstrate how an app contract was turned from a negative outcome into a positive long-term relationship for both purchaser and developer.  Articles will also highlight examples of highly effective apps to demonstrate their importance in specific sectors.

Advice will include:

  1. Using your intellect
  • The most important element of any application, other than its functionality, is the intellectual property (IP) that sits behind it.  It is essential for ownership of this IP to be clear from the outset between the purchaser and the developer.
  1. What’s the use?
  • In conjunction with IP, it is vital to understand and agree all aspects of app use. This relates to the platforms it will be used on – e.g. Apple, Android, etc – and any restrictions placed on the useage by either the purchaser or the developer.
  1. Costing it out
  • Not only should contracts be specific about the cost of initial supply to the purchaser, but also any end-cost to the consumer and, including the premium charged by the platform provider, what percentage of income (if any) will be earned by both the purchasing company and the developer.
  • There will always be some degree of risk in developing a new app – it’s part of the challenge of creating leading-edge technology or functionality.  However, this risk can be effectively managed if internal teams – marketing, creative, finance, product development, procurement, etc – work together to mitigate risk-based costs if problems do arise.  If the right questions (often simple and non-technical) are being asked at the outset, issues are often identified before they occur.

      4.  Going global

  • As with the issues above, the availability of the app – nationally, regionally, or globally, all have implications for the procurement contract.  This will also include legal rights and responsibilities which need to be clearly established from the outset.

      5Further developments

  • While the app may be a winner from the outset, there are bound to be ‘bugs’, ‘tweaks’ that will require further development, along with new functionality requested from within the purchasing organisation and/or the end-users.  Not allowing for this either within the initial contract, or through a structured agreement that takes future development into account, is the IT procurement equivalent of signing a blank cheque.