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If you are developing your own mobile app, there are considerations to make about your intellectual property. There are different kinds of intellectual property that you can use for different parts of your app. Additionally, there are ways to use and protect your intellectual property and therefore your new mobile app. This article will explain:

  • the different types of intellectual property you might need when creating your own mobile app; and 
  • how to manage your intellectual property.


One way of protecting the intellectual property in your app is with copyright. Copyright over your intellectual property means you get to decide when and how others can use your app. This is especially useful if you are going to be working with others to develop or market the app. It allows them to use it while still giving you security. 

Copyright specifically protects creative work. This includes apps under ‘literary works’, as well as your imagery, music or any other creative work in your app. Copyright law automatically protects work of this kind if there is a material document trail showing that the work is yours. This protection lasts for your lifetime plus 50 years from when the work is created. If you would like to, you can use the copyright symbol to show your right, but you do not need to. It can be useful to use it so that others know that the work is protected.

Trade Marks

There are some aspects of your app that copyright will not protect, however. 

For example, this includes the name or logo of your app. 

This is when trade mark rights can be helpful. A trade mark establishes an aspect of your brand as your own. It also grants you the right to use your work exclusively and prevent others from using it. 

Unlike copyright, trade mark rights are not automatic. You can have either an unregistered or registered trade mark, and there is a difference between the two in terms of protection. 

You can identify an unregistered trade mark by the ™ symbol. To gain stronger protection, you can register your trade mark with the Intellectual Property Office of New Zealand (IPONZ). Once registered, trade mark rights last ten years and can then be renewed. 


Patents protect new and novel inventions. It prevents others from selling, using or making your invention. In regards to your new app, a patent could protect computer software that you may have created for your app. To gain a patent you must apply to IPONZ. Additionally, your invention must be unique, useful and inventive. For a patent application to be successful, the invention must be confidential and not already public or in use. 

When to Use a License Agreement 

Another important consideration is a license agreement. A license agreement allows you, as the intellectual property owner, to give permission to another person to use your intellectual property. An example of where a license agreement is useful is when you are creating an app. Likely, you would be working with others to develop or market the app. In this instance: 

  • they will have access to use your intellectual property without infringing on your rights; and 
  • you will have ownership of what they create. 

As the creator and owner of the intellectual property, you will have the right to the work that comes from a licence agreement. It is best to state these terms clearly in the agreement to avoid confusion. 

Key Takeaways 

In order to protect your new app, you should consider the different types of intellectual property and how best to use them. You can use copyright, trade mark and patents to protect the content of your app. Additionally, if you need to work with others to finish your app, you can use a license agreement to ensure your creation is safe. If you need assistance with protecting your intellectual property within an app, contact LegalVision’s IP lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out a form on our page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is copyright?

Copyright is automatic protection over original artistic works. 

What is a trade mark?

A trade mark provides protection over branding elements such as your logo, tagline or jingle. 

What is a patent?

A patent provides protection over new and novel inventions. 

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