Many of the biggest and most successful apps today began as humble startups. Take the example of Uber. As the world’s top ride-sharing app, it has over 93 million active users across 71 countries today.
Before Uber became the app that has made many people’s lives easier, it had to go through its share of testing and tweaking. Even as people were using the platform, the app still experienced several notable policy changes geared towards improving rider and driver experience.
User feedback is one of the most important drivers of growth for many of the best apps today. Yet one aspect of the success of app startups is overlooked by many, and that is the importance of protecting these ideas.
When you have a billion-dollar app idea, it pays to take great care to ensure that your plans remain yours from brainstorming to execution. There are some ways to keep your app idea from being taken by competitors.
How You Can Legally Protect Your App Idea
To keep those with untoward intentions from stealing your ideas and claiming them as their own, take these steps to protect your app.
1. Apply for a patent
When your ideas are fully formed, you can go and apply for a patent for your mobile app, even during its early stages. However, applying for a patent does not always spell success for every invention.
One requirement to obtain a patent is to pass the standard of “nonobviousness.” This means that your mobile app has to be so distinct from any idea currently out in the market that thinking of it is not an easily apparent task.
It is often hard to gauge the nonobviousness of your app on your own. Consult with a software patent lawyer to assist you and assess if your app meets the standards for patenting.
2. Make use of nondisclosure agreements
The creation of an app involves the efforts of several people. Some professionals you hire in developing it are often freelancers, too, who usually won’t stay as a permanent part of the team.
On the one hand, you want to protect your confidential information. But on the other hand, withholding important findings and details about your app could compromise its quality.
A solution to this conundrum is to have involved parties sign a nondisclosure agreement before they begin any work on the app. This legally binding contract can give you peace of mind that none of your ideas will be leaked.
3. Copyright your product
When you get contractors on board the building of your app, you will inevitably delegate some essential tasks to them. These usually include writing the code or creating the user interface for it.
To prevent anyone from claiming ownership of the app due to their work, have them sign over copyright to you. Do this before and after their engagement with your team to ensure compliance.
4. Trademark the name and logo of your app
Once you have the name, logo, and the whole brand identity of your app, make sure to register them for a trademark. Many apps in the market today are only copies of other apps that potentially infringe trademark and copyright.
Having a registered trademark can protect your app from these situations. It is a simpler process, too, to report infringement when you have the documents to prove you are the owner of your app’s trademark.
While trademarks potentially last as long as your business exists, you are also required to declare that it is still in use at regular intervals. You are required to file maintenance documents between the fifth and sixth years and then the ninth and 10th years of registration. Afterward, you will only have to do so after every ten years.
5. Document the whole process
Ideally, these documents will not have to be used for legal issues. But making sure that the whole creation process for your app is well documented in written form helps your case in the event that you have to prove this in court.
Do not be worried that you will have “too much” documentation, either. Thoroughness is better. Your documents should include the code you used, early versions of your logo and UI, brainstorming files, and other important information.
Learn from the many real-world examples of apps being copied with no consequences. Take the necessary steps to keep your app protected even before it has been officially launched. Doing so can prevent idea theft, and it can allow smooth operations when your app goes live. Experience success with your creation.