wordpress-923188_1280Welcome back to our series answering the questions you want answered (or perhaps the questions you didn't think to ask.)

I have an amazing and innovative idea for a software product. Unfortunately, once someone uses the program, they could duplicate the functionality without actually copying the source code. Is there any way to protect the program functionality?

You might be able to patent if it is something like a business process or method software; however, patenting your software product could potentially prove problematic in light of recent Supreme Court rulings. Having a copyright on the website or user interface could help prevent copycats, but it may be beneficial to talk to a legal professional before putting your product on the market. 

In the example of hiring a programmer to create a unique program, I would not trust the programmer to properly license the info. So, who would I hire to do that? An attorney?

Without knowing the particular programmer, it's hard to say whether or not your lack of faith in this programmer's ability to license the code or work with you information. A larger question might be why you would work with someone who doesn't read or abide by licensing agreements, or whose ability and competence you would question in the first place. If you have concerns about your contract with the programmer, you should definitely consider speaking to an attorney or investigating other legal resources.

When small business hires a programmer from countries like India or Russia, there are no contracts. What needs to be done to protect IP of small business in the U.S.?

It's a good business practice to always have a contract with those you hire to do work for you, especially if you're hiring contract programmers. When crafting a contract, it should outline payment as well as what happens with source code, IP ownership upon completion, and any other issues that need to be addressed. Some sites that help find programmers for hire have standard contracts or trend and conditions that apply to their contractors.

So, if someone has a domain - say, google.com -  can I use google.org?

While it may seem like a easy way to cash in on the popularity of a certain site (or in the case of Google, ubiquity), you can't operate your business from google.org. Having a domain name isn't the same thing as having a trademark. Even if you were able to get google.org as a domain name, you would undoubtedly receive a cease and desist letter from Google, telling you to take down your site that is using their trademark-protected name. So any reflected glory would be short lived and inadvisable.

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