Advice for someone transitiong to freelance consulting and software dev
February 23, 2013 5:38 AM   Subscribe

I would like to do some consulting in the area of software development for Engineering firms. I would also like to develop my own software products and sell them. How do I go about this from a legal standpoint? I plan to alert all my potential customers that I am also working on my own products and that any software I build for them can either remain proprietary for their company (assuming of course it is not the exact same thing as what I plan to create and sell on my own) , or that we can enter an agreement where if I sell the software developed on their dime we would split the profits - assuming they don't want to keep it proprietary which will be the most likely scenario. YANAL, but is there a way to draft this in legal terms? S uch that if obvious small classes or libraries appear both in my product and the product I develop for them - and any programmer knows there are only that many ways to skin a code and overlap is inevitable - I won't get sued.
posted by spacefire to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
One way to do this is to sell "usage rights" to a set of tools that you own and have developped. This should be in the initial contract you have with the client from the start. Part of what you sell them is software development - code that you sell them and on which they have intellectual property rights - and rights to use your internal set of tools.

As you continue doing consulting, you should shape this set of tools in the direction of the product you want to build. Development on this set of tools should obviously not be on the client's dime, but its development costs will be offsetted by the rights you are selling.

This has the advantage of keeping the projects (internal and consulting) completely separate and making it easier to get funding and tax credits for your internal projects.

Good luck !
posted by agregoire at 6:52 AM on February 23, 2013

Either you do a work for hire for the client, in which they own all source code, or they license a development SDK / shared library binaries from you and the client's customizations are work for hire. You can negotiate changes to the SDK requested by a client. If you want to retain the IP, perhaps lower the price to the client to increase the attractiveness of the offer.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:22 AM on February 23, 2013

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