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How to protect a Mobile App with a Trademark?

People all over the world are using smartphones and tablets. As mobile app usage grows in popularity, the number of app downloads worldwide increases as well. The global mobile application market size was estimated at USD 187.58 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 206.73 billion in 2022[1]. The trend shows that more and more people prefer to use mobile devices over the traditional system, which means more businesses are transitioning their services to mobile-first software solutions. Trademark registration offers an effective mechanism for protecting the uniqueness of this vital asset of any business, including mobile apps.

By

Jan Buza

What is a Mobile App Trademark?

A trademark is a device created to protect the identity aspect of a brand. The main purpose of a trademark is to distinguish the company's goods and services from those of its competitors. In the context of mobile applications, the following elements are eligible for trademark registration:

  • logos, 

  • slogans, 

  • brand names, and 

  • app UI design elements and sounds 

The use of a trademark is closely related to branding efforts pursued by a company, resulting in differentiation, recognition and customer loyalty. At the same time, the trademark offers considerable legal protection against infringement attempts. If the identity is not protected, there are chances anyone can take advantage of the name and can take credit. And if the app's name is misused or misrepresented, it will damage your brand's reputation and the app you build.

Is it required to register a Trademark for your Mobile App? 

No, it's not. Once you start using the name related to your app, you will acquire common law right in the name. However, if you're planning on launching this app with that name, you might be interested in making sure that your brand is legally well-protected. That name is how a general consumer who's going to purchase and/or use your app will identify that you're the person/company that produced the app. It is then essential to protect your brand's #1 asset and the main vehicle for distinguishing it from others and achieving a competitive advantage

Why does a Mobile App need a Trademark?

One of the key reasons why trademark registration is strongly advisable and beneficial for mobile app developers is a quicker and cheaper resolution of any potential disputes and trademark infringement cases. 

With more than 3.48 million apps released on the Google Play store and 2.22 million on the Apple App Store, there is a significant chance that another mobile app may use a confusingly similar trademark to your brand. Trademark infringement is one of the few legal grounds for removal that mobile app platforms such as the Apple App Store or Google Play Store can act on, as the agents can quickly verify the use of an infringing mark by a third party without the need to rely on legal counsel or the courts to make a final determination.

How to trademark a Mobile App - 3-Step Process

1. Make sure your brand elements are distinct

For a trademark to be eligible for registration, it has to meet specific criteria, one of them being distinctiveness. As the purpose of a trademark is to signal a recognizable source of goods or services to the customer, only a distinctive-enough trademark can achieve this purpose without consumer confusion. The more generic or descriptive a name, logo, or any other brand elements are, the less likely they will be registered by the trademark office. You can learn more about registration requirements and the distinctiveness of trademarks by visiting our Trademark Academy.

2. Conduct prior search

Another important step in the process of registering a trademark is making sure that it is not too similar to already registered brands. Many starting businesses that tried to register their trademarks without prior research have either suffered rejection directly from the trademark office or received opposition from their competitors who registered before them. Trademark law strongly prioritizes companies that file trademark applications first, even if the registration process was not yet completed. As a result, the Intellectual Property Office recommends searching their trademark filing database prior to starting with the registration.

3. File an Application

Once you have identified your distinct brand elements and ensured that there are no conflicts with prior registered trademarks, you can file an official trademark application. After you submit an application with all the necessary information, the trademark office will conduct a review process that can take up to eight months. Make sure you get all the details in your application correct, as even minor errors might end up costing you your time and fees paid to the IPO. 

On average, 37% of all self-filed applications fail, and they are 2.5 times more likely to get rejected than applications filed by a trademark attorney. It's therefore strongly recommended to get a legal opinion about the overall eligibility of your trademark before attempting to register it. In Trama, we offer a free lawyer's check with a 24-hour response guarantee that evaluates the distinctiveness of your trademark and other criteria necessary for a successful registration.

[1] https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/mobile-application-market

Jan Buza
Jan Buza
Product Mind

Helped scale portfolio firms for a VC fund

CEMS Prague

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