IP and Mobile Apps: App Patents, Copyright Protection

This guide explores the legal landscape of IP protection for mobile apps, detailing patents and copyrights, relevant laws, procedures, and best practices to safeguard your digital creations.


The rapid growth of mobile applications has revolutionized the way we interact with technology. With millions of apps available for download, protecting the intellectual property (IP) of these digital creations is crucial. This guide explores the legal landscape surrounding IP protection for mobile apps, focusing on patents and copyright. We will examine the relevant laws, procedures, and best practices for safeguarding your app's intellectual property.

Understanding Intellectual Property (IP)

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual Property (IP) refers to creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary and artistic works, designs, symbols, names, and images used in commerce. IP is protected by law, enabling creators to earn recognition or financial benefit from their innovations.

Types of Intellectual Property

  1. Patents: Protect inventions and processes that provide a new way of doing something or offer a new technical solution to a problem.
  2. Copyrights: Protect literary and artistic works, including software code.
  3. Trademarks: Protect symbols, names, and slogans used to identify goods or services.
  4. Trade Secrets: Protect confidential business information that provides a competitive edge.

Patents and Mobile Apps

What is a Patent?

A patent is an exclusive right granted for an invention, which allows the patent holder to exclude others from making, using, or selling the invention for a limited period, typically 20 years from the filing date.

Types of Patents

  1. Utility Patents: Cover new and useful processes, machines, manufactures, or compositions of matter.
  2. Design Patents: Protect the ornamental design of a functional item.
  3. Plant Patents: Cover new and distinct plant varieties.

Patent Eligibility for Mobile Apps

Mobile apps can be patented if they meet the criteria for patentability, which include:

  1. Novelty: The invention must be new and not known to the public before the filing date.
  2. Non-Obviousness: The invention must not be obvious to someone with ordinary skill in the field.
  3. Utility: The invention must be useful and provide some identifiable benefit.

Patent Application Process

  1. Conduct a Patent Search: Before filing, conduct a thorough search to ensure your app is novel. The USPTO provides resources for conducting patent searches (USPTO Patent Search).
  2. Prepare and File a Patent Application: Draft a detailed description of your invention, including claims that define the scope of protection. File the application with the USPTO (USPTO Patent Application).
  3. Examination: The USPTO examines the application to ensure it meets all legal requirements.
  4. Publication: If the application is approved, it is published, and the patent is granted.

Relevant Laws and Resources

  • Patent Act (35 U.S.C.): Governs the patent system in the United States (Patent Act).
  • USPTO Resources: Provides comprehensive information on patents (USPTO Patents).

Copyright is a legal right that grants the creator of an original work exclusive rights to its use and distribution, usually for the creator's lifetime plus 70 years.

Mobile apps are eligible for copyright protection as they are considered literary works. This includes the source code, object code, and any accompanying documentation or audiovisual elements.

  1. Prepare Your Application: Gather all necessary information about your work, including the title, author, and date of creation.
  2. Submit Your Application: File your application with the U.S. Copyright Office (Copyright Registration).
  3. Deposit Copies: Submit copies of the work being registered.
  4. Pay the Fee: Pay the required registration fee.
  • Public Record: Establishes a public record of your copyright claim.
  • Legal Evidence: Provides legal evidence of ownership.
  • Ability to Sue: Allows you to bring a lawsuit for infringement.
  • Statutory Damages and Attorney's Fees: Entitles you to statutory damages and attorney's fees in case of infringement.

Relevant Laws and Resources

  • Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.): Governs copyright law in the United States (Copyright Act).
  • U.S. Copyright Office: Provides comprehensive information on copyright (Copyright Office).

Best Practices for Protecting Your Mobile App

Conduct a Thorough IP Audit

Before launching your app, conduct an IP audit to identify all potential IP assets and ensure they are adequately protected.

Use Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)

When discussing your app with potential partners, investors, or employees, use NDAs to protect your confidential information.

Implement Robust Security Measures

Protect your app's source code and other sensitive information with robust security measures, such as encryption and access controls.

Monitor and Enforce Your IP Rights

Regularly monitor the market for potential infringements and take prompt action to enforce your IP rights.

Consult with an IP attorney to navigate the complexities of IP law and ensure your app is fully protected.


Protecting the intellectual property of mobile apps is essential for safeguarding your innovations and maintaining a competitive edge. By understanding the legal landscape and following best practices, you can effectively protect your app's patents and copyrights. For more information, refer to the official resources provided by the USPTO and the U.S. Copyright Office.


  1. USPTO - IP for Apps: From Conception to Creation
  2. USPTO - Patent Application
  3. Copyright Registration
  4. Patent Act (35 U.S.C.)
  5. Copyright Act (17 U.S.C.)
About the author
Von Wooding, Esq.

Von Wooding, Esq.

Lawyer and Founder

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