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I have created a pretty simple web tool where the user enters some personal information and receives back a spreadsheet listing the likely consequences of various lifestyle choices. (I am being deliberately vague here.) I believe that a) this is a useful tool, b) there is currently nothing like it on the web, and c) it would be extremely easy for a competent programmer to devise a perfect substitute.

I showed this site recently to a near-stranger who is an executive at a large corporation, and was surprised a few days later to receive an email asking if I'd be interested in selling the site, and if so, how much I want for it. He also requested permission to share the site URL with a selected few of his colleagues, and promised not to share it further without my explicit permission.

I am paralyzed by the "how much do you want for it" question, but that's not something I expect to get help for here. Instead, my question is: Should I (and can I) do anything at this point by way of intellectual property protection. It seems clear to me that if this organization wants a site like mine, their staff can whip one up for them in a few weeks. Is there a way to protect against that?

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You are protected by copyright as a matter of law, even if you don't post a copyright notice, although you have slightly more procedural rights if you do post a copyright notice and there would need to be a filing with the copyright registrar (a division of the Library of Congress) before you brought suit.

You can't really get any other intellectual property protections for it except possibly a trademark if you have a distinctive mark or name or logo for the app.

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  • It would be very very unlikely to be patentable but it is within the realm of possibility. Oct 17, 2022 at 21:17
  • @GeorgeWhite Except that the OP suggests that it has already been publicly disclosed which certainly limits that, as well as obviousness issues and prior art issues from third parties.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 17, 2022 at 23:27
  • Issues of course but no data in the question 100% rules out a US patent. Third party’s actions could hypothetically rule out trademarks as well. Oct 18, 2022 at 1:34
  • If the OP agrees accept money for it, would that make it count as a work for hire?
    – Brandin
    Oct 18, 2022 at 7:33
  • @ohwilleke: I'm not sure whether it counts as "publicly disclosed". It sits on my web page where in principle anyone could find it, but it is not advertised and it is unlikely that anyone would find it via a search engine. I've shown it to a total of about a dozen people, one of whom is a guy I barely know who apparently showed it to a small number of others at his company and then contacted me. He mentioned in his email that he'd shown it only to the minimal number of others he thought necessary and would not share it any further without my explicit permission.
    – WillO
    Oct 18, 2022 at 13:12

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