App Development, Thought Leaders

How to Protect Your App Idea

March 6, 2020

by Paresh Sagar

Have you ever had an excellent idea for a mobile app, but worry about what would happen if your idea was stolen by a competitor? Start safeguarding your idea by following these guidelines. 

Updated 03/29/2022

Mobile apps are redefining every aspect of our lives. There is an app for everything; grocery shopping, travel planner, finance tracking and even for renting houses. This is the only reason that mobile apps are becoming the most profitable business ideas.

In the end, we all want to launch a unique mobile app that is one of a kind and helpful together for everyone. 

Imagine this scenario. You came up with an amazing idea, planned out the entire execution process, and then had a rough idea for the design in mind. 

Because you’re happy with your idea, you start discussing it with a few developers, designers, friends, and family members. Then come to find out, another similar app has been launched right when yours was about to hit the market.

All of your efforts, hard work, and research are done. Instead of impressing your target audience, you have to now prepare to beat the competition.

It's inevitable that more than one person will have similar app ideas to meet human needs. However, if you're fearing that someone may steal your app idea, there are steps you can take to protect your app idea during the development process. 

Looking for a trusted app development company to guide your app's creation? Connect with hard-working professionals today on Clutch.  

6 Steps to Take to Protect Your App Idea From Being Copied

So you have an idea for an app — how do you protect it? Safeguarding your intellectual property (IP) is a multi-step process, but it's well worth it.

Did you know that app creators that take steps to invest in IP earn more from their apps? You can protect your app idea and give yourself a shot at extra revenue by following these 6 app protection steps:

  1. Begin the copyright process
  2. Sign an NDA
  3. Look into outsourcing
  4. Reserve your app name
  5. Trademark the app’s name and logo
  6. Document everything

By investing time in completing each step of this process, you'll be able to avoid stolen app ideas.

Step 1: Begin the Copyright Process

The best way to earn the legal rights for your mobile app is to get the copyright together. 

A copyright is a form of protection granted for both published and unpublished works. In short, it declares you own something. Copyrights are for artistic works and tangible creations such as:

  • Songs
  • Books
  • Plays
  • Software code
  • Architectural plans 

Remember, a copyright isn't the same as a patent, which protects new discoveries and inventions. Rather than protecting ideas, copyrights protect creations. Your copyright will take affect when your app idea becomes tangible in some way. 

While the United States doesn't require you to register for a copyright once your creation is complete, there are legal benefits to doing so
Even though the idea of the app is yours, any developer can ask for copyrights because they created the app. They can say they are the owners as well.

When signing this type of agreement, ask for all of the rights before and after the development process. 

Generally, it takes 3 months to officially register a copyright, so keep that in mind when moving into the development stages with your app idea.   

Step 2: Sign an NDA

With any project, always sign the NDA with the developer or the development company. 

An NDA or non-disclosure agreement is a contract that states that no sensitive information is to be shared outside of the contracted engagement.

To get the best results from any developer, your vision needs to be explained freely. If you’re afraid of losing your idea, your vision probably won’t be expressed properly.

An NDA is an official contract that states whatever information will be shared between two people will be safe. An example of a sample NDA is shown in the image below.  

An NDA is an official contract that states whatever information will be shared between two people will be safe.

The agreement lists all of the parties involved, carefully detailing the importance of confidentiality.

The information cannot be shared with any third person. Hence; after signing the NDA, you can explain your idea to the developers freely.

Step 3: Look into Outsourcing

It’s not new information that hiring a freelancer is much cheaper than working with a development company. But, sometimes saving the cost for app development can create a big blunder for you.

A major issue can present itself when your developers outsource your project to others. The third developer or company doesn't have any agreement or contract, which means they can build a similar application.

Always make sure you are working with an experienced in-house team of developers and designers. 

Additionally, there is a risk in hiring a freelancer because what if s/he leaves the project in the middle of development? You would most likely go to a development company. The outsourced project, on the other hand, has better security and quality. 

The company provides the non-disclosure agreement, which guarantees the safety of your project. Moreover, these companies are aware of their reputation so they wouldn’t jeopardize it by doing anything wrong with your app. 

To ensure positive word-of-mouth, their team will do their best in crafting a flawless mobile app.

Step 4: Reserve Your App’s Name 

With an Android app, you can have multiple apps with the same name. But with iOS, you should reserve your app name in advance. 

Note that you need to create an Apple Developer account to reserve an app name.

App Store Connect account for registering app idea names

Source: App Store Connect

Here are the steps to reserve the app name:

  1. Open your account.
  2. Click on the “My Apps” section in the top right corner.
  3. Go to “Add New App."
  4. Upload the app bundle.
  5. Press “Create," and your app name is now reserved.
  6. Once your app is ready, you can upload the app from Xcode.

After completing these steps, the rest of the process should be straightforward. Any copycats will have to figure out a different concept for their app.

Step 5: Trademark the App’s Name and Logo

The most effective way to stop others from copying your app is to trademark your work. Even if someone attempts to copy your work, there will be a trademark registered with your brand name.

Having a standard trademark established for your company name will protect it no matter how it appears in use. This protects you from other using your app name. Attorney Aiden Durham explains how acquiring a name and logo trademark works on her YouTube channel.  

When you trademark a logo, the visual elements of the logo are protected. This includes fonts, colors, and symbols that appear in the design.

Even if your app name appears in the logo, it won't necessarily be protected through the trademark for your logo. There may be some protection, but they're not guaranteed in the same way they would be with both trademarks. 

Besides preventing someone from building a similar app, trademarking also allows you to have a brand identity to directly connect with users in a unique and safeguarded way. 

Step 6: Document Everything

If you end up having to prove your case in a courtroom, ensure that everything is logged from start to finished. From the birth of the idea to its completion, everything should be saved in a written format.

Save all of the documentation for the app. Size also doesn’t matter in this case. Small documents can hold the biggest and strongest proof for your battle. 

Keep the app’s code, brainstorming blueprints, design drafts and any other relevant info stored in a separate file. 

Don’t Let Your Idea Get Stolen

Unfortunately, there are several real-life examples of app ideas being stolen. This article isn’t just a preventative reminder; it could happen to anyone. According to an Arxcan company report, 97% of the top Google Play apps are clones of popular applications.

Flappy Bird, Yo Messenger, and Uber are commonly copied apps.

Nearly a third of all games published in the App Store are clones of the popular game, Flappy Bird. Yo Messenger is one of the many companies that have had to file complaints about clone apps. In almost every company, there is a clone of the ride-sharing service Uber.

Start Protecting Your App Today

If you are someone with an amazing app idea then now you are well aware of how to protect your idea from being copied. Follow these steps and tips and no one will be able to copy your idea. 

Make sure you are dealing with a legally registered company or a freelancer. Beware of the scams and cheaters who will take your money and will return poor-quality cloned apps. Always try to build an app from scratch and ask for the source code from the developers.

Implement your idea quickly and start earning the best revenue from your business app idea.

Looking for some legal assistance in your efforts? Connect with a top copyright firm or intellectual property lawyer on Clutch.

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