Can I have my app patented?


Many startups, but also established companies, are developing apps and bringing them onto the market and are asking themselves whether they can protect their app idea or have it "patented".

Our patent attorney and law firm represents numerous founders and startups as well as traditional companies in the best possible protection of their ideas and their intellectual property (IP rights). In the context of legal advice, the question of the protectability of an app or other software product often arises.

Usually no patent for a pure software idea

The mere idea or concept for a smartphone-based or mobile phone-based app, i.e. the computer program (such as a platform or a kind of marketplace) as such, can unfortunately not be protected by a patent or utility model - at least under German law. Something different applies, however, if this also has a technical character and a corresponding, outward-looking success (e.g. a machine or a robot is operated with it). In this case, patent protection by way of a so-called computer-implemented invention may come into consideration, whereby it depends on the respective individual case.

But: Various other protection options for an app (e.g. brand, design)

However, there are various options for protecting at least parts of an app. The following industrial property rights come into consideration here:

  • Brands: The name of the app, its logo or an icon can be registered as a trademark and for many (also known) smartphone apps this is the only protection. Examples include the registration of word marks, figurative marks or word figurative marks. You can also think of having the slogan protected as a brand. In contrast to other property rights, trademarks also have the advantage that they can be extended indefinitely.
  • Designs / registered patents: The exact design of the app, i.e. the respective user interface or individual characteristic elements of it (e.g. logos, graphic control elements, etc.) can also be protected as designs (e.g. in Germany) or registered designs (at EU level - here: Community designs).
  • copyright: Although there is copyright protection in Germany even without registration, action can be taken against imitators in individual cases. For example, the source code of an app is protected by copyright.

Even if the underlying idea - that is, the "gag" - of a purely mobile phone-based app cannot usually be protected, at least parts of it can be protected through the interplay of various property rights. Appropriate protection can help deter potential copycats and is often rewarded by investors and capital providers.

Our team of a patent attorney and a lawyer / specialist attorney for commercial legal protection is happy to answer your inquiries in connection with app protection. Just call us without obligation or send one e-mail.