China: IP Protection For Mobile Applications (Apps)

Last Updated: 4 April 2018
Article by AFD China Intellectual Property

Since the advent of mobile era, smartphones have become an indispensable part of our daily life. Statistics show that Chinese people rank the second in the world, in terms of the amount of time spent on mobile phones, with an average of three hours per day.

Apart for basic functions, mobile applications (APPs) play a vital role in the daily use of a mobile phone. APPs help us live a much convenient life. We check the weather, buy tickets, order meals, watch videos and live broadcasting, get navigation, or pay bills from our mobile devices.

Being an APP proprietor, it is worth thinking of seeking IP protection for your APPs. And here is some advice we would like to share with you.

1. Seeking copyright protection

  1. apply for software copyright registration for the source codes and files once your APP is developed;
  2. apply for work copyright registration for original images, music, words, scripts, etc. of the APP.

In practice, one may claim his/her copyright without registering the copyright. Still, it is highly recommended to obtain such certificates, which are strong documentary evidence that can help you initiate quick actions of enforcement and reduce the difficulty in evidence collection and preservation.

2. Seeking trademark protection

  1. apply for trademark registration for the name, abbreviate name, alias name, etc. of your APP;
  2. apply for trademark registration for the logo and icon used by the APP itself, symbolic and signature icons or the combination of icons and words frequently shown in the APP.

Please note that the trademark applied for registration shall be identical to what is used. It will make the trademark easy to be identified and remembered by consumers, and it will also help with potential enforcement in the future such as collecting acceptable use evidence of the trademark. Meanwhile, when applying for trademark for mobile APPs, we highly recommend registering the trademark in Class 9 (digital and electronic goods), Class 38 (telecommunication services), Class 42 technological services and research and design relating thereto), and other classes which relate to the services or goods the APP offers. The more comprehensive scope the registration covers, the more likely you will defeat potential passing off/counterfeit and the better reputation you may obtain for the APP and your business.

3. Seeking patent protection

3.1 file invention patent application for the APP combining with the hardware on which the APP is loaded;

It is explicitly stipulated in the latest revision of the Guidelines for Patent Examination that "program" can be a part of apparatus claims and be protected in a patent application. That is, invention relates to computer program can be protected in a patent, and it is allowed to draft claims in the form of "medium + computer program flow". According to such regulation, one can seek patent protection for mobile APPs by combining the APP with mobile devices on which the APP is.

For example, the claims can be drafted in this form: "a *** device, including a processor and a memory, the memory stores instructions that can be executed by the processor, the following steps are implemented when the instructions are executed by the processor..."; the title of the invention can be written in the way such as "a method of implementing *** and the devices thereof".

Please be advised that novelty and high level of inventiveness are required for invention patent applications. Trivial technology improvement or an APP executed through a commonly known hardware, network, and etc. may not be deemed as a technical feature and thereby may not be considered having inventiveness.

3.2 file design patent application for product containing graphical user interface (GUI)

Mobile APPs are used on mobile terminals and displayed in the form of GUI, and the function of the product is achieved through man-machine interaction. According to the relevant regulations of the Patent Law of China, GUIs are eligible for design patent applications and thus one may file design patent application to seek protection for mobile APPs. In comparison with non-GUI design patent application, special requirements are applied to GUI design patent applications with respect to the title, drawings and photos, and brief specification

  1. graphical interface, application software interface, software user interface and etc. shall be submitted together with the product, and cannot be separated from the product;
  2. "interface" shall be a key word and included in the title, and the design patent application shall be named in the way such as "**** interface of mobile phone";
  3. the figures in a design patent application shall clearly indicate the field of the product in which the GUI is used; and clearly display the design of the GUI and its size, position and proportionate relationships in the product. For example, when filing a GUI design patent application, one can submit a front view of the product (including the mobile phone) and some changing state views of each level/dynamic pattern of the GUI (not including the mobile phone);
  4. in the brief specification, one shall illustrate the application of the GUI, the position of the GUI in the product, the way of man-machine interaction, the changing status etc.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Sign Up
Gain free access to lawyers expertise from more than 250 countries.
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Newsalert
Select Topics
Select Regions
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions