So, you’ve worked for months (or years) on getting version 1.0 of your ground-breaking app ready for launch. Before you pull the trigger on releasing your app to the world it’s best to give some thought on how to protect the intellectual property that will have been generated over the course of the app’s development.

Design Rights

A registered design can protect the appearance of a product. For software products, you may want to consider registering elements of your graphical user interface. The design registration can relate to individual icons or an arrangement of icons on a screen. It is, however, important to appreciate that the scope of protection provided by a registered design will not cover the functionality of your app – this is the domain of patents.


Patents are a powerful form of IP protection that can provide a real obstacle for competitors, particularly if you are able to acquire patent protection for an essential feature of your app.

There is a common misconception that it is not possible to patent software, however, this is not the case. As long as you can demonstrate the required “technical effect” there may be aspects of your app that are patentable. Generally, the US is seen as more permissive than the UK and Europe when it comes to software type inventions and a granted patent in the US may be all you need to give you an edge over your competitors.


The code behind your app will be protected by copyright as will each substantial update of the code. Additionally, the design documents relating to the software will be protected by copyright. Although copyright won’t prevent competitors from programming their own apps with similar functionality to your app, you will be protected against unauthorised copying and subsequent distribution of your code.

Best practice is to include a copyright notice including your company name and the year that the work was produced (© Copyright 2019 Scintilla Intellectual Property Ltd. All rights reserved).

Trade Marks

When it comes to IP protection for your app it is best not to overlook trade marks, particularly if you have a unique brand associated with the app that is separate from your main company branding. Take a look at our recent blog post for information on the requirements for registration of a trade mark and also for some pointers on how to select your mark.  

What’s Next?

Our patent attorneys have experience with all of the above intellectual property rights and how they apply to mobile apps, and more generally to computer software.

At Scintilla we offer a free initial meeting, and this can be all you need to point you in the right direction. For a more detailed investigation on how design rights, patents, copyright and trade marks could apply to your mobile app you could consider an IP Audit.

As a final point, both registered designs and patents have a “novelty” requirement, which means any public disclosures of your app (as will occur at launch) may prevent you from subsequently acquiring design or patent protection. Some, but not all, territories offer “grace periods”, however grace periods should not be relied on in all cases and should merely be thought of as a back-up.

Whether you are just starting out or your app is ready to go, please feel free to get in touch.