It seems like you hear about a new one every other day: a software application, or app, that’s hit it big as the next new craze, whether it’s a game, a productivity enhancer, or something else entirely. There’s lots of room for success in developing an app – even if you intend to make it available for free. Some of the most lucrative apps out there are offered as a free download, with additional purchases making up the bulk of their revenues.
You also probably know that searching for an app to download can be confusing, since there are often lots of similar titles. The amount of app copycats out there hoping for the wrong clicks — this illustrates perfectly why it’s incredibly important to trademark the name of your app as soon as you can. Several of the larger software developers have been involved in trademark battles recently, so it’s critical to protect your app and have your trademark registration in order should the need for it arise.
When you’re trademarking your app, you’re protecting yourself from anyone else from using a similar or confusing name to yours. The particular design or functionality of an app may be subject to copyright or patent protection, but a trademark protects the name of your app, or, the logo associated with your app. In other words, even if someone creates an app with similar features, utility, gameplay, or other factors to yours – which happens frequently – consumers still need to be able to tell the difference based on the app’s identifier – its name. A registered trademark will help anyone who wants to download your app remain confident that they’re getting the original article – not an imitation. Here’s how you can go about obtaining one.
1) Come up with an original name for your app.
There are well over a million apps available, so you’ll need to be creative here. If your idea is unique enough, a name on the simpler and more descriptive side may work in terms of not existing out there already – although it may be more difficult to protect later on. Remember, the more generic or descriptive a name, word, or term, the less likely the United States Patent & Trademark Office is to allow only one person or company to use it (although it’s not impossible, as several successful apps and developers have proven). New, uncommon, or fabricated words and phrases will fare best as original app names. If you intend to use the name as a logo (learn more), or stylized version, you’ll need to decide on how that will appear, as well. You’ll always get the broadest protection on “plain text” trademarks, and most app searches are shown as plain text, as well.
2) Conduct research on your app name.
With over a million apps out there, this can be an extensive process. There are also several different “classes” that the USPTO applies to apps and software in order to more easily organize and differentiate them.