Licensing helps Figtree keep its software safe from imitators

Steve and Abby Rosenstein don’t hold any patents for the software they’ve developed.-(AARON HOUSTON)

Now, multiply that $8 million across the variety of software systems the company has developed over its 30 years in business, and add in the thousands of man hours it takes to write each individual program, and the value of Figtree’s intellectual property is clear, Rosenstein said.

But the company doesn’t hold any patents — and doesn’t plan on pursuing any, either.

“What we develop, how we develop it, is certainly important to us because that’s the product we sell,” Rosenstein said. “But also, it’s pretty specific to certain kinds of tasks, and it’s not that easily unwound by someone else.”

“The source code is not like reading a book,” she said.

That doesn’t mean Rosenstein and her husband are careless about protection. But instead of patents, the company licenses its software to its various clients — a list that includes Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books, and McKee Foods Corp., which makes Little Debbie snack cakes.

Rosenstein and her husband started the business in their bedroom in 1983, after moving to the Garden State from St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands.

Rosenstein and her husband wanted to help companies make use of PCs. She was a college art major who had a knack for math and a budding appetite for computer programming. Her husband is a CPA with a good amount of business law training.

Figtree, which they thought would focus on developing custom software solutions for companies, would be a perfect blend of their strengths, she said.

Today, the Morris Plains company has 12 employees, many of whom have been with the company for more than a decade, and still does custom software development. But its most popular product is shareholder accounting software, which can help a company with shareholders track the transfer of shares from one person to another and the payment of dividends.

Whether it’s for custom software or for their shareholder accounting software, Figtree requires all its clients to sign licensing agreements to gain access to its products.

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