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In app development, your ideas make up a great portion of what makes you successful. Therefore, you should take steps to protect those ideas, many of which will qualify as intellectual property. Intellectual property has various legal protections that you can take advantage of. Before you share your app ideas with any third party, it is crucial that you have some form of intellectual property protection to prevent any stealing of your ideas. Therefore, this article will go through five ways to protect your app ideas.

Protect Your App’s Branding With Trade Marks

Trade marks are one kind of intellectual property that can protect different aspects of your app’s branding. They are a mark or sign that connect you or your business to the good or service you provide, existing as a “badge of origin” identifying you as the source. They can include:

  • words;
  • shapes;
  • colours;
  • logos;
  • symbols;
  • phrases; or
  • a combination of these. 

Brand recognition is an important part of marketing for your app, and trade marks can protect your ideas in this space. That way, you can discourage others from copying your app’s unique references. For instance, you may find it useful to register trade marks for:

  • your business’ name;
  • your app’s name;
  • a logo; or
  • distinctive symbols/icons that you use in your app.

If someone tries to copy your trade mark or register a similar one, you have legal protections available to both protect some of your app ideas and ensure they are distinct in the market.

Be Clear of Ownership From the Beginning

As part of app development, you likely will have multiple members of the team working on your app. Each member will contribute their own work to the app and potentially be crafting their own ideas or content. Monitoring this is crucial for protecting your intellectual property, as different parts of your app can qualify as copyright-protected material. In most cases, the person that creates the work is its owner, and they have various rights under the law.

For example, copyright protects both literary and artistic works. The source code for your app can qualify as literary work, and the designs within your app could qualify as artistic works. By default, the creators of both those app components are the original owners.

To avoid disputes and misunderstandings, you need to clearly identify who owns what from the beginning. Then, you can unite all ownership under one entity, providing something in return for those giving up their ownership. That way, you can prevent costly disputes down the line and reduce the risks of parties withholding their intellectual property from overall app development.

Carefully Draft Contracts with Third Parties

Developing and marketing your app will likely require interfacing with third parties. In some cases, you may need to permit them to use your app’s various intellectual property aspects. You can use a licensing agreement (or another similar document) to set out the terms of any such relationships and seek legal advice to ensure this agreement best protects your interests. If another party uses your ideas and intellectual property outside of the ways you specify, you will have contractual remedies available to you. 

In such contracts, you should clearly specify:

  • confidentiality measures;
  • prohibited and permitted conduct with your ideas;
  • performance requirements;
  • details of any royalties or fees payable to you;
  • any international legal requirements; and
  • term/time limits.

For example, if you engage an overseas distributor to market your app in another country’s app store, draft a clear contract setting out how they are and are not allowed to handle your intellectual property.

Indicate Your Intellectual Property With Appropriate Notice

You should make that clear to your users and other parties when you have intellectual property rights in certain aspects of your app. That way, they have notice that you have enforceable intellectual property rights in those things. As a result, you can discourage would-be copycats and imitators.

For instance, you can use the following symbols to indicate you have intellectual property rights:

  • ™ for unregistered trade marks;
  • ® for registered trade marks; and
  • © for copyright.

Be sure to include details about your intellectual property rights in your app’s terms and conditions or end-user licence agreement (EULA).

Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand

Our free Trade Mark Essentials in New Zealand guide explains how to register and defend your trade mark registration.

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Use Non-Disclosure Agreements

Before sharing your app ideas with anyone, particularly while still in development, binding them to confidentiality with a non-disclosure agreement is essential. That way, there are legal consequences if they share or use your ideas outside of what you both agree.

This is especially important when protecting trade secrets, a kind of intellectual property that refers to your specific skills and know-how that are unique to you and your app. A confidentiality agreement protects this important asset against leaks or unauthorised sharing.

Key Takeaways

Your app ideas are crucial to your app’s success, so you need to protect them appropriately. If you need help with intellectual property protection, our experienced intellectual property lawyers can assist as part of our LegalVision membership. For a low monthly fee, you will have unlimited access to lawyers to answer your questions and draft and review your documents. Call us today on 0800 005 570 or visit our membership page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are trade marks?

Trade marks are a kind of intellectual property. Specifically, they are unique identifiers for your business that often make up part of your brand. Examples include your business name or logo.

What is copyright?

Copyright is another kind of intellectual property. It protects original works and gives legal rights to the creator of those works in most cases. It can cover a range of things, including literary, musical, and dramatic works.

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