When a company outsources their development work to a third-party company, who owns the code? Who owns the intellectual property rights on the resultant software application, whether it be a desktop application, browser-based application, or indeed a mobile app?
Ownership becomes important when the development of a project is outsourced to an external development team. Who owns the code? Before addressing the problem of ownership, why does this matter? Once the application has been developed and the result is working and has been deployed, who cares about code ownership?
Why is ownership of code important?
When software is developed in house, there is no question about ownership of the code and software. Clearly the code is under the control of the in-house team and remains within the business at all times.
Code ownership is vital for numerous reasons. Potentially the developers could use code that they have written under your guidance of requirements and ideas, produce a similar product, and sell it. That would be grossly unfair and disappointing, but not particularly damaging.
The worst-case scenario is when the development team no longer has a relationship with you. This could be because of a fall out or merely because they have moved on and may no longer be interested or able to cope with your business's requirements. Whatever the reason, the end result is that you have no one to support your application or develop any changes and enhancements.
If you own the code and have total access to it, you will be able to move on to a different team without any issues surrounding the code base for your application.
These thoughts also make it clear that at any point, even if you do indeed own the code, you need to make sure that you have easy and complete access to the code base. This can be most easily achieved by ensuring that you have at least view permissions on the code base repository that should reside in the cloud. This code base should be downloaded on a periodic basis to a safe location within the owner’s environment.
How do I know who owns the code?
In most situations, the question of ownership will come up during the negotiation phase when the outsourced development team and their client are working out the details of their relationship vis a vis the development of an application. Ownership of the code and intellectual property rights will have been discussed and included in the contract well before any code has been written.
We at Point100 as a matter of course understand that ownership of the bespoke code developed specifically for a client is with the client.
We also go further in the sense that we give access to our clients from the moment we write the first line of code. All our code is stored in repositories on the cloud and is therefore available to the entire development team with great ease and detail. At the same time, we also give read only access to our clients so that they can have the peace of mind knowing that their code is available to them at all times.
It being impossible to know the future, the client needs to have that added security with the knowledge that all the code is in their hands and available at all times. This allows them to have access to the code in case of catastrophic failure or indeed if they decide at any future point to move to a different development team.
On many occasions the development team will use existing code snippets or larger frameworks to speed up and enhance the development process. Clearly these code modules are the sole property of the development team and do not being to the client. However, any resultant code should, of course, belong to the client.
For more information about the bespoke software services available from Point100's developers, contact us.