How Do I Patent an App Idea?

While developing your own app may be exciting, it is vital that you have proper legal protection of your Intellectual property to ensure that your concepts, ideas and overall essence of the app remains unique to you and your apps intellectual property is protected.

What is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property also known as IP, is the unique ideas you create that can be legally owned and protected. However, not all ideas can be protected. The main areas of intellectual property protection are the laws that deal with Copyright, Trade Marks, Patents, Registered designs Plant Breeder’s rights and Circuit layouts.

app Intellectual Property

In an oversaturated and competitive digital market, it is imperative that you protect your intellectual property behind your app to achieve maximum value and growth.

How to Protect Intellectual Property in Australia


People often ask how do I patent an app idea? Registering a patent is one way to protect your app intellectual property.

A patent provides legal protection for a device, substance, method or process. To successfully register a patent your app must be new, useful, inventive or innovative. A patent once granted will give you exclusive protection rights for your app. There are different types of patents. A standard patent can protect your intellectual property for up to 20 years. If your ideas do not meet the criteria for a standard patent, you may be able to register an innovative patent which is valid for up to 8 years. Before applying for a patent, it is important that you search for existing patens which may inhibit your ability to claim your app as original. To do this, visit the Australian patent search website.

Obtaining a patent is a complex and expensive process that relies on extensive criteria to be fulfilled. There is also an option to apply for a provisional patent, which essentially acts as a ‘placeholder’ so you can obtain advice and consider your options while you produce the extensive and detailed information required to proceed with a patent application.

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A crucial element in protecting the integrity of your app is to completely own it. You may do this by creating all of your app’s software. If your app is developed by multiple programmers and developers, you must ensure you have a signed, written contract acknowledging your complete ownership of the app. This will protect you if disputes arise in the future as to who in fact created the app.


Copyright is the exclusive legal ownership of literary, dramatic or musical work. In the business context copyright protection is generally protection in the written documentation of a business. Copyright ensures exclusivity, so nobody else may reproduce or use your work.

In Australia, copyright protection is entirely automatic. From the moment you produce your ideas in a written form your app is protected under the Copyright Act 1968, with your App being considered a form of ‘literary work’. You are not required to ‘apply’ for copyright protection in Australia.

Trade Marks

Trade Mark protection and registration refers to the registration and protection of the physical characteristics and indicators of your app. These may include the name of your app, a slogan, or a logo. This allows you to establish an individual and unique brand, recognition and a reputation for your app amongst the public, giving you the edge in such a competitive market.

Certain countries, including Australia, are part of the Madrid Protocol, which enables those wishing to establish Trade Mark protection in multiple countries to file a single application, and pay one set of fees.

Other Important Matters to Consider

Privacy Protection

As you are liable for any impact on a user of your app, it is important to minimise the risk of any potential conflicts. For example consider whether your app requires users to enter personal information. If so, you will need a privacy policy to communicate precisely how their information will be stored, used and properly secured, in a simple yet effective manner.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and conditions outline exactly how users can engage with your App. Therefore, you have the right to determine where your app content may be used, distributed and general ‘rules’ users must follow when using it. The terms and conditions also include disclaimers regarding your personal liability from use of the app.


Key take away

Intellectual property protection for apps is achieved through a number of legal strategies. It is important to be aware of these strategies and avoid delaying protecting your idea.

About us

Protection of Intellectual property in Australia is becoming increasingly important in this competitive world. If you have an app, idea, brand or logo you wish to protect we can help. Lord Commercial Lawyers is a commercial and business-focused law firm based in the Melbourne CBD. We work with businesses and individuals to help them achieve their legal and commercial goals.

For further information about patenting your app idea please visit our page on Intellectual Property.
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By Andrew Lord

Andrew heads Lord Commercial Lawyers as Director and has been in the Legal Industry for over 40 years.

Updated on May 16, 2024


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