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How Do I Protect My Software Idea?

Are you developing a software App? Creating mobile Applications today has become a great tool to reach new markets and promote your brand, however, you need to consider the legalities before starting App development to avoid issues later down the track.

The following article is a general guideline and depending on your individual situation, it is best to consult with a legal professional to see what laws are Applicable to your mobile App development project.

What is Intellectual Property?

 Like any other new project, you will have designs, ideas and creations for your new mobile Applications and you will need to legally protect the intellectual property in your intangible assets.

This means registering your IP whether you need to Apply for a trade mark, design or patent.

A trade mark is a sign in the marketplace that identifies products or services as coming from a specific company or brand. Copyright protects original works of authorship including literary works and computer software.

A patent gives you a monopoly right to exclude others from making, using or selling an invention. A design protects the visual Appearance of a product such as the features of shape, configuration, pattern or ornamentation.

Why Do I need to protect my IP?

 The concept of intellectual property rights is based on the principle that a person who invests creativity, expense and time in an original creation has an exclusive right to exploit their creation and, in this way, IP protection fosters innovation to reward creators for their effort.

What types of IP protection are available for a mobile Application?

The intellectual property rights in the creation of a mobile Application may include the following types of intellectual property rights:

  • trade mark protection in class 9 as a downloadable software Application (‘App’) to protect your App’s name, logo and slogan
  • copyright protection in the code that runs the mobile App, in-App copyright and graphics
  • patent protection may be available for Apps because they make phones function in a certain way

How do I reserve my name in the App Store?

 The process of reserving your chosen name in the App store begins with visiting and setting up a developer account. It is important, in most cases, to ensure that the account is created under the App’s business name with the owner’s contact information. Also, whilst it is free to create an account, there is an annual cost per year to reserve an App name. You may wish to use an existing Apple ID to create your account, however, it is probably best to create a new ID for the App.

After that is complete, you will be able to enrol in the Apple Developer Program to reserve your App name. After enrolling and waiting for the processing time, you will gain access to the iTunes Connect Portal. From there, an App entry can be made to reserve your App name.

How to use Namechk

Namechk is a website that give users the ability to find available usernames on websites online. This is an Application that is easy to use to see whether your name is free to use. All you have to do is enter your chosen name and the website will scan online and provide you with the results of where your name is available.

 Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies for an App

 Apps should have in place to ensure the protection of both the business and its users. Terms and conditions outline how platforms may be used and you will need to ensure your App meets the requirements of the terms and conditions of where your App will be available online. Additionally, you will also need to have your own terms and conditions that users must agree with before using your App.

Most websites and App require information from their users, such as their names, location, preferences and other personal details. If you do not ensure that this data is protected, you may be liable for damages as the unauthorised access to this information may cause harm to individuals and your App might be shut down. Privacy policies detail how the personal information your App collects and uses will be secured.

Ask for a Non-Disclosure Agreement

 You need a confidentiality agreement (or non-disclosure agreement) for your investors, or anyone else involved in the development of your App, as it is pivotal to ensure that the people you disclose your ideas to do not steal or free ride on your IP. You may wish to hire or work with others to help develop your App and if your intellectual property is not sufficiently protected, you may find your rights compromised. If you do plan on working with others to develop an App, it is important that you ensure you have a legal agreement to protect your IP.

IP Assignment Agreement

 An IP Assignment agreement will ensure that any work that you may have hired third parties to complete for your App belongs to you. The assignment of this IP will also protect you from these third parties potentially trying to come back later and say you’ve exploited or taken their work.

 Take away points

 Mobile Applications are a new and exciting way of reaching new markets and promoting your business.

  • You will need to legally protect your mobile Application by registering your creations as trademarks, patents or copyright.
  • If you are working with others to develop your App, a legal agreement needs to be implemented to ensure your rights are protected.
  • If you wish to tell anyone about your App idea, you should make sure they sign a confidentiality agreement
  • Your Application will need to have policies to ensure the protection of your business and your App’s users.
  • There is a process to reserve your App name in the Apple Store
  • Namechk is a website that give users the ability to find available usernames on websites online
  • An IP Assignment agreement will ensure that any work that you may have hired third parties to complete for your App belongs to you.

Lara Alexandra, Legal Assistant and Trade Mark Administrator

We are a team of trade mark attorney and IP specialists based on Gold Coast and Sydney. If you need any assistance with your mobile app, please contact us on 1300 77 66 14.


Disclaimer. The material in this post represents general information only and should not be taken to be legal advice.

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