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Having your day in court

Protecting Your Intellectual Property Rights - Tips For iPhone App Developers

by Beverley Lopez

The explosion of new iPhone apps in the last few years has seen intellectual property lawyers becoming increasingly busy.  If you're an app developer, you'll need to know how to protect your intellectual property from competitors.  But what is intellectual property and how can a lawyer in your area help? 

Intellectual property rights

Intellectual property rights refer to the following aspects surrounding your work:

  • protecting your work from illegal use by other people or organisations
  • the right to license and sell your app
  • protecting your app from competitors or people who would copy or steal your work, including your ideas, apps or graphics

When your intellectual property is protected under law, you are entitled to sue a third party for damages if your rights are breached.

Types of intellectual property protection

There are several ways in which your intellectual property can be protected by the law.

Trademark:  A trademark is designed to stop competitors from trying to fool consumers into believing that their company has affiliations to you or to your work.

Patent:  A patent gives you the right to prevent other companies or individuals from using or exporting your original work.

Copyright:  Copyright gives you the right to decide who is allowed to modify, distribute, copy or make other apps based on your original work.

A lawyer will advise you on the intricacies of all these forms of intellectual property rights protection and will be able to draw up the necessary paperwork for you.

Intellectual property considerations and strategy

As an iPhone app developer, it's important that you devise a sound intellectual property strategy to protect your work.

In an industry such as app development where the pace of things moves extremely quickly and competitors pop up overnight, it's sensible to opt for a strategy that can be put in place quickly.  For this reason, copyright could be a good way to go.

Something else to consider is the likely success or otherwise of your app.  There are not very many apps on the market that are actually financially successful.  It therefore makes good sense to choose a method of protection that is inexpensive, at least until your app starts to make money, when you could then choose to upgrade your protection.

You also need to decide if you are content to have intellectual property rights in just one country or in other countries too.  It can be very expensive to consider worldwide patenting for example, so again it may be worth opting for a cheaper solution until your app takes off.

In conclusion

When you've worked hard to develop an iPhone app that you hope could prove to be the next 'Angry Birds', it makes sense to ensure that this intellectual property is protected by the law.  Have a chat with an experienced intellectual property lawyer in your area for more advice.