How to protect an app idea or patent software in Germany? – Hints and information from Patent Attorney!

Startups and founders, but also established companies often develop innovative apps or software (e.g. computer games etc.) and want to protect this app idea or ideally patent the idea for the software. In our German Patent Law Firm and IP Law Office, we represent many startups and founders, but also established companies in protecting their ideas through intellectual property rights in the best possible way.

If you are not sure yet how to protect your development in the software field or how to protect it in other fields, you can also use our free idea protection check!

Especially when it comes to the possible protection of an app idea or software through IP rights, there are several aspects to consider:

Usually no patent protection for pure app idea or software!

Since utility model protection in Germany is not possible for processes anyway, only a patent can be considered as a technical IP right if the requirements are met. For pure software (such as a word processing program, a computer game, an app for a social media network, a search engine, a price comparison portal, an online auction house or a dating platform, etc.) or a mobile phone-based or smartphone-based app as such, patent protection is normally not possible under German patent law, but other industrial property rights may be an option. If the software also has a technical effect outside the computer or smartphone – such as controlling a machine, a robotic arm or a camera, etc. – protection for this aspect may be obtained under patent law as a “computer-implemented invention”. Since this depends on the circumstances of the individual case, this should be examined in detail.

However, individual elements of an app / software can often be secured via other property rights!

Often, at least parts of an app / software can be secured via intellectual property rights – which is also strongly recommended as a rule. Among others, the following intellectual property rights should be considered:

Trademark protection / Trademark law

A trademark application makes sense, for example, if you want to protect the name of an app or want to protect the logo or an icon from imitators and seek protection as a word mark or as a figurative mark or word-picture mark / word and device mark. Depending on the sales market, a trademark application in Germany or a EU trademark application (Union trademark) may be considered.

Design protection / Design law

For graphic elements of an app or software – such as user interfaces, icons, buttons, etc. – a design application or a design patent application (possibly as part of a collective application) can be filed. For this purpose, a German design or a Community design (“EU design”) may be useful.

Copyright protection / Copyright law

E.g. for the source code of a software or an app, copyright protection can also be considered. In Germany, a copyright does not have to be registered or otherwise deposited. Rather, it already arises upon completion of the work.

Conclusion: Unfortunately, a pure app idea or software idea (e.g. for a computer game or a purely mobile phone-based app) cannot be protected if it has no physical effect. However, there are various ways to protect individual elements of an app or software with intellectual property rights and thus protect important parts of it from imitators. Investors, venture capital firms or business angels also often pay attention to such intellectual property rights (IP rights).

Our Patent Attorneys Office and IP Law Firm with German Attorney (Certified Intellectual Property Lawyer) as well as Patent Lawyer (European Patent, Trademark and Design Attorney) has been assisting clients of various sizes and from a wide variety of fields with the topics of trademark law, patent law, utility model law, design law / design patent law, unfair competition law, etc. for years and will also be happy to support you!