1. How to Protect Your Software From Infringement
2. Register Your App Name as a Trademark

Trademark software is one method that many software developers use to take steps to protect their work and prevent others from using their code.

How to Protect Your Software From Infringement

Chances are, you've put a lot of time and effort into developing your new software application. Now that you're done, you likely want to make sure competing companies and developers aren't able to copy your code and steal your user base. Unfortunately, as Apple learned the hard way when Microsoft "borrowed" their graphic user interface to develop early versions of Windows and, as a result, cornered the market on personal computing operating systems, you really can't stop somebody from stealing your work.

There are some steps you can take, though, that will help to give you an edge over the competition. Doing these things can make it much more difficult for somebody else to steal or copy your work. You can take steps to protect your code using:

Patents give inventors the right to prevent other people from:

  • Making the patented item
  • Using the patented item
  • Importing the patented item
  • Selling the patented item

Note that it is possible for somebody to do any of the things in this list, as long as they have permission from the patent owner to do so, in the form of a license. Patents are issued by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO for short. Once a patent has been granted, it is normally valid for 20 years from the date that the application for the patent was filed with the USPTO.

However, a patent will not be effective until all required fees have been paid and, if there is ever a gap in maintenance fee payments, patent protection may be removed until those payments are made. Patents issued in the United States are only valid in:

  • The United States
  • United States territories
  • United States possessions

Owning a patent can prevent somebody else from selling or making any software that requires the use of the items you have patented to function.

Register Your App Name as a Trademark

Registering the name of your application as a trademark is one step you can take to help prevent others from infringing on your work. Before you do this, though, there are two things you need to carefully consider:

  • Is it worth it for you to spend upwards of $300 to register a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office?
  • Is there another software application already registered under the same name or a similar name?

If asked, most people who have registered a trademark in the past would tell you that the best way to go about doing so is to go to the United States Patent and Trademark Office's official website and utilize the Trademark Electronic Application System, or TEAS. This is an interactive application system that makes the process as simple as possible by asking you a series of easy-to-understand questions. The TEAS further simplify the application process by checking your application before it is submitted and asking you to go back and correct any errors. This is highly preferable to mailing in an application only to be notified later that you missed an important step.

The least expensive filing option is known as TEAS PLUS. When you start the TEAS PLUS process, you'll be asked to provide the basis for your application. If you've already used your intended trademark in the distribution and sale of your application, you'll need to check "Yes" for the "Use in Commerce" option. In terms of dates of use, you'll need to provide dates you first unveiled your software. For example, when did your application first become available for download on the Google Play store? If you don't know these dates for sure, providing your best guess will normally suffice.

You'll also be asked to provide dates for when you began to sell your software outside of your home state. In most cases, due to the nature of online application stores, these dates are almost always the same. If you haven't used your intended trademark yet, but you have a bona fide intent to do so, check "Yes" in the "Intent to Use" section.

If you need help with trademark software, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.