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App Protection: Copyright or Patent?

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You're developing a mobile application, how do you protect it? Well that depends on the most important aspects of your invention and the stage of development you're in. We recommend one of two actions, depending on the stage: copyright your app or patent your app idea.

If you merely have an app idea and want to beat your competitors to the punch, you're going to want to patent it to claim the idea (so long as it is patentable) and buy time to fully develop and market your app. If you've already been working through development, have a brand image and are hoping to add it to the app market soon, you're going to want a copyright, which will protect the look and feel as well as the code.

A patent, whether provisional (which is valid for a year and provides priority over competitors) or non-provisional (valid for 20 years from filing) protects the novel aspects of an application. That's to say, it will protect features of the app that are new and non-obvious and add value. You can claim parts that are currently part of the app or that in the future the app would include, such as add ons or interactive parts.

A copyright protects specific coding and brand aesthetics so that competitors can't rip off the look and feel of your mobile app (think of how Uber and Lyft differ), and can't copy the code. It ensures your competitors aren't taking shortcuts by copying and pasting your brand or code into a slightly different box and calling it a day.

See the infograph below for a side by side comparison to understand what is best for your app idea.

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 If you found this article helpful, see our post on how to patent your app idea.

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