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.