Copyright Protection

Protecting an App Concept?

Jeanette Eng Actress, Host/Producer, Entrepreneur

August 23rd, 2015

I've spoken with choice individuals, but know that before I begin moving with momentum on my mobile app idea, I need to PROTECT it!  How do I go about doing that?  I know that I can "Google" it, but I'd like to hear specifically from experienced app founders who have gone through this process.  Thank you!

Paul Travis Multifaceted Online Executor: Product Marketing to Program Mgmt. to Business Development

August 23rd, 2015

I am not a lawyer but have been through this process numerous times, Jeanette.  There are a number of protections provided by US Federal law:  patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets. 

Trademarks concern the name and copyrights concern mostly written work. The latter is squirrelly enough that I won't even tackle it here.

The first is the only one really worth examining for an app, and there are very clear guidelines as to what qualifies for a patent -- a novel process.  It is more likely that a "piece" of your app could be protected by patent than the "entire" thing, and even if you get protection, you have to consider how you'll pay to prosecute an offender.

My recommendation, in Star Trek language: put your energy into the warp drives and create marketplace success, rather than saving energy for your shields.

Okku Touronen

August 24th, 2015

This is a more general answer, and in my opinion this question is asked to often by people new in startups, not implying that this is the case for you.

Ideas are like seeds, you need to nurture them to make them grow. And ideas are nurtured with work and decisions. To finish the product you need to make hundreds or maybe thousands of decisions, and each little decisions will make a big or small impact on the finished product.

The hard part is not finding the seed, it’s making the right decisions to nurture it to a great product.

And to succeed with this you need to build a great team and put a lot of hard work into it.

You mental model of the product you want to create today is not what the finished product will look or function like. It will be something else.

So don’t hesitate to talk about your idea, at least with people somewhat close to you. This will not only give you a lot of feedback but also requires you to formulate a pitch that people understand.

Good luck!

Scott McGregor Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.

August 25th, 2015

Get "Patent Pending in 24 hours". Read the book. Write a draft provisional patent Application. If you have money, have a patent lawyer take your draft and build the patent application you want. If you don't have money file your own provisional application pro se. Scott McGregor,, (408) 505-4123 Sent from my iPhone

Jeanette Eng Actress, Host/Producer, Entrepreneur

August 23rd, 2015

Yea, after a Google search, I learned that you really CAN'T protect an app idea - rather your energy is best spent on staying ahead of your competitors because you can count on copycats as soon as your app becomes public on the marketplace and then your best tactic is setting your BRAND apart.  So, I suppose protecting the name is all I can do and then from there, it's just NDAs and then making the app the best one out there of its kind.  

Vinay Ph.D. Director of Licensing at Wake Forest Innovations

August 25th, 2015

My two cents as a patent agent (general info, not legal advice): consider an initial consultation with a patent attorney / agent experienced in drafting patent applications in your tech area. Many will give a free 20-30 min call or meeting to discuss strategy in hopes to get your business. Although you can prep a provisional application yourself, it's likely that it will be totally off base if this is your first time doing it. To prep though, consider describing the tech in full detail on paper in an "enabling" fashion such that one could read and practice it; put together images, flow charts and diagrams as needed; and describe the novel and non-obvious aspects of the tech as best as you can. Also think about how you can broadly craft the scope of your tech to prevent others from practicing in a competitive space. That should give you a good starting point for a consultation. Agreed with some of the earlier comments on exploring trademark and copyright registrations where appropriate, and also the benefit of an IP portfolio when it comes to discussions with potential investors. Good luck!

Joanan Hernandez CEO & Founder at Mollejuo

August 24th, 2015

PS: It seems, from my research, that the name and logo are protect-able - is that worth doing and if so, what's your advice on the best way to do that? 

Sure! Be sure to balance out, the cost. Depending on where you decide to develop the app, it might be cheaper to develop the app than to 'protect it'. Anyhow, just a simple domain parking will help you. Once the product takes traction, then you can go and register the trade mark, which give you some sort of protection in some countries, but not the ones where your concept likely might be copycat.

Don't dwell and spend a lot of effort on protection. Spend that effort on developing the product and leaving your competition behind. Facebook wasn't the first social network.

All the best!



August 24th, 2015

A trademark for your name and log via USPTO is easily filed, you can do that yourself.

That said, the success of your company and app will be 5 % idea, and 95 % execution. Being open about your idea will get you valuable feedback, and this should outweigh the negative of a slight chance that somebody is willing to drop what they are doing and steal your idea.

Dave Korpi President, Take 5, Inc.

August 26th, 2015

Want to see an example provisional? 

THEN, how to do it, and NOT be off base? 

Lots of examples of patents on apps you can draw from!

Hope you have the NEXT Instagram!


Dave Korpi

Steve Woll Applied Meteorology

August 23rd, 2015

I talked with an intellectual property lawyer about this about a month ago.  According to him, these days, there is a low likelihood that you will successfully obtain a patent on software/apps at the end of the patent review process (1-3 years).

However, he said there still could be some reasons to apply for at least a provisional patent: 1. it may give investors/potential investors some increased confidence knowing that you have taken at least some steps to protect your idea, and 2. being able to say you have a "patent pending" might deter some less-sophisticated competitors from entering the market with a competitive/copycat offering.  For us, our assessment was that neither of these were worth the effort, but you might have a different set of circumstances.

Good luck! 

Gabor Nagy Founder / Chief architect at Skyline Robotics

August 24th, 2015

I'll second filing a provisional patent application. I just have and working on some more.
It's much easier and cheaper than a full utility patent and you can use the "patent pending" label.
You have a year to decide whether you want to convert it to a full patent (most lawyers will give you a deal if you do provisional first, then convert).