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How to Protect an App Idea: The Legal Steps You Can Take

How do you stop someone from getting their hands on your brain?

Cloned apps steal around 10% of an app developer’s userbase on average. Protecting your app idea can be an uphill struggle in a competitive and even unscrupulous marketplace. To achieve it, you need to know what tools you have at your disposal.

Here’s how to protect an app idea made simple.

Can You Copyright an App Idea?

The most basic protection that applies to any creative work is copyright. Copyright is automated and applies as soon as your work exists in fixed form.

But that last part is the key. Ideas are—in a word—worthless. You can’t copyright an idea.

For that, you need to “fix” your idea. In an app’s case, that means you need to start work on coding to make your app a reality. Once you’ve built your app in your app maker, your app will fall under copyright protection.

Even then, the basic idea of your app will never fall under copyright. Your copyright will only apply to the expression of that idea. So another app can’t use your code, assets, or content, but it’s free to exploit the same basic idea.

How to Patent an App Idea

Another method of protecting your app idea is through patents.

But patents are much more complex than basic copyright protection. As with copyright, you can’t patent an idea. You need to show how your idea works and also how it differs from all the previous ideas currently patented.

You’ll need to carry out a patent search to confirm your idea is unique. If you’re confident, you’ll then need exhaustive documentation of your idea. With that, you can submit a patent application.

There’s no guarantee your patent will pass muster. And even if it does, your patent isn’t immune to legal challenges. If an app is already doing what yours will do, patented or not, they’ll be able to challenge your patent on the grounds of prior art.

I’m Still Wondering How to Protect My App Idea

You may have noticed by now that protecting your app idea is pretty complicated. Patents are a high-grade solution for the simple act of protecting your work, and copyright can’t protect your idea until it exists in tangible form. So what can you do?

The truth is that, in most cases, copyright will be enough to protect your app—but only its fixed form, not the basic idea. Copyright will give you the power to legally challenge anyone infringing on your creation. Given the saturation and level of crossover in the app market, patents can be more trouble than they’re worth unless your app does something truly revolutionary.

How to Protect an App Idea Made Simple

How to protect an app idea isn’t always a straightforward issue. If you’re trying to protect your app, you need to remember that there are thousands of apps out there all trying to do the same.

Has someone infringed on your intellectual property? You can find a lawyer to help you fight your case.

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