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. You’ll need to make sure to cover all your bases there by searching through each class that could possibly be considered to be in the same channel of trade as your app – there will likely be a few of them. For a more in-depth look at researching app names, watch this video.

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 3) Retain a trademark attorney.

In a situation like trademarking an app, the time and resources involved in researching the name on your own are often too extensive to overcome. A trademark attorney has the expertise to know exactly what to search for, and where and how to search for it. What’s more, the tools available to the public through the USPTO website are more rudimentary than the tools that trademark attorneys use, both on the submission and on the examination side, which is what happens once your application reaches the government. Since a piece of software like an app can be covered by several different areas of trademark regulations, a trademark attorney gives you a higher chance of success.

 4) Submit your app trademark application.

Your trademark attorney will get your application and paperwork in order to facilitate as efficient a review process as possible. Even when you supply all the necessary submission information, the trademark review process will still take six to eight months, most likely at the outer end of that range. Be sure to submit a complete, error-free trademark registration – not only to make sure you’re protecting everything you want (like a logo or stylized version of your app name), but also to be confident that your application won’t be rejected or returned for more information.

 5) Follow up on the trademark filing for your app.

Assuming that your trademark application has been approved and your trademark registered as planned, you’re ready to begin distributing your app with the confidence that another company can’t come along and try to claim the name or confuse other users with a similar name. Once your app is out there and available, you should keep an eye on what other results come up when you search for your name, and make sure no one is infringing on your registered mark. Most of the major app distribution channels will assist you – not only in monitoring infringement (which is very rare for a trademarked product), but also in getting infringing apps removed. Still, be sure to stay aware of the situation yourself, as the world of technology can be ever changing and fast-moving. Don’t miss out on the benefits you worked hard to protect.