Xerox App Builders Call For Safeguards Against Other Partners Copying Their Work

Some of Xerox's top application builders want to ensure that their investment in developing groundbreaking tools isn't de-valued by a wave of imitations or duplicates.

"You don't want to spend tens of thousands of dollars building something and then have somebody look under the hood of it and go, 'Hmm, I bet I could make a lot of money with that thing,'" said Patrick Leone, founder and CEO of Bloomington, Ind.-based MidAmerica Technology.

Leone said he'd like to see Xerox's Personalized Application Builder (PAB) program have a provision where apps that make it into the studio are protected through a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Leone said MidAmerica had spent tons of money with trademark companies and on NDAs with teeth to safeguard apps that catch on such as the company's SignMe one-step signing app.

[Related: CRN Exclusive: Xerox Looks To Turn Channel Partners Into App Builders With First-Ever U.S. Forum]

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"You want to have a forum where everyone can benefit from sharing their ideas, but you also want to be protected as you're sharing your ideas," Leone said Wednesday during the 2017 Xerox PAB Forum in Webster, N.Y.

Xerox makes channel partners sign all the right documents such as NDAs and requires solution providers to conduct their business in a certain way to be part of the PAB, according to Rui Ferreira, director and general manager of the company's Solutions Business Unit.

"We have both legal protection and some software protection for the partner's IP," Ferreira told CRN during the PAB Forum. "If we were ever to detect partners trying to use an app to go into someone else's business, they'll be booted out of the program very quickly."

Just-Tech made a promise a long time ago to pursue a licensing arrangement if another partner made a desirable app such as MidAmerica's SignMe tool, according to Josh Justice, president of the La Plata, Md.-based company. Justice encouraged other solution providers to pursue licensing agreements rather than investing resources in a push to recreate apps that are already available to Xerox partners.

"Look to other partners, learn from them, grow with them, but don't steal something they've already done," Justice said. "If we're just stealing each other's stuff, then we're just spinning our own wheels and we're not moving the ball forward."

When someone builds an app, Ferreira said Xerox actually receives the code, checks it for security, and digitally signs off on the code. More often than not, though, Ferreira said the IP is actually revealed in the app's capability, with many different ways of programming it likely to exist.

"It's not like someone can just go in and pry open the IP that you may have," Ferreira said.

Xerox partners should really become more familiar with the app studio, according to Donna Davis, vice president of solution sales for Fairfield, N.J.-based Vision-e. The app studio was able to quickly solve an issue facing one of Vision-e's clients and help them with 20 MFPs totally customized for the customer, according to Davis.

"We got a request that said, 'I need to make an app that is highly personalized. It needs to do this, this and this,'" Davis said. "But it was already in something they could do for free that was already at their disposal."

The process for building apps starts with submitting a proposal to Xerox, Ferreira said, with the Norwalk, Conn.-based vendor giving partners feedback on whether or not someone has already invested in that space. Xerox, however, doesn't specify which other partners are in that space or what exactly they're developing, according to Ferreira.

Ferreira said Xerox was successful in getting a solution provider to back off from building a cloud fax app after notifying the partner that there were already two apps in the gallery doing cloud fax with another couple on the way. Xerox wants to ensure that the app development work being undertaken by partners is differentiated so that they're not putting themselves in a needlessly competitive scenario, he said.

Xerox plans to make peer-to-peer collaboration easier with its upcoming app catalog, which will house all applications built by channel partners in one place and be made available going into 2018, according to Mark Boyt, head of solutions and services marketing for Xerox Europe.

The catalog will initially only be available to solution providers, according to Boyt, though Xerox is looking to figure out how to take some of that content and present it to end customers.

"We're starting to move this now from being around building to being about sharing and setting this great capability up with customers," Boyt said.