How to protect software or an app

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How to protect software or an app

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If there is a sector that does not experience a crisis today, it is undoubtedly that of applications and software. The app market continues to crunch numbers and grow. With apps we do an infinite number of things: we buy things, play sports, listen to music, read books, monitor our health, look for the most convenient products, find a place and much more. On average, every month a user uses 46 different apps, and has downloaded at least 80 of them. According to an estimate by App Annie, a company specializing in digital market analysis, the time that the average user spends per day on his smartphone exceeds the time spent in front of the TV by 13%: 4.2 hours a day versus 3.7 hours .

How much is the app market worth?

In the first three months of 2022 alone, 36.9 billion apps were installed worldwide, counting both the App Store and Google Play, 1.4% more than in the same period last year. Today, there are around 7 million apps developed for Android and iOS.

In 2016 alone the sector was worth 1,300 billion dollars, at the end of 2021 estimates speak of over 6 trillion. China and the USA lead the app spending ranking, but Europe isn’t doing too badly either. The United Kingdom is the 3rd country in the world for app creators and turnover, followed by Germany in 7th place, Spain in 10th and France in 11th. Italy ranks 19th, with 1.9% of app developers and 0.1% of global market value.

Through the offering of apps, company strategies have shifted attention from products to services and customer loyalty. Apps, therefore, in addition to their own utilities, provide essential advantages to remain competitive both on the global market and in smaller scenarios.

How to protect an app or software

But how do you protect an app or software?

The Software and Apps, which have an original and creative character, are protected through copyright and by filing with the respective Public Software Registry, exercising exclusive rights, in particular that of economic exploitation.

In other cases, where possible, the best thing is to patent them. But to be patented, an invention must consist of a new and original solution to a technical problem, and comply with three fundamental requirements: novelty, originality, i.e. invention, and industriality.

In Italy, according to the provisions of the European Patent Convention, computer programs “as such” are excluded from patent protection. However, software can be patented if presented as a “method”, or as a “technical means implementing a method”.

The requirements for patenting

In fact, technically, we are talking about “inventions implemented by computer” and not software patents. It is essential that there is a technical effect deriving from the execution of the computer program that goes beyond the normal interaction between program and computer.

The further technical effect of the software action can be found both outside the PC – for example in process/equipment control systems – and inside the PC itself – for example in the management of data in the computer’s memory or in the management of hardware resources -. Software that processes technical data such as image processing, data compression, noise suppression, coding/decoding are therefore patentable.

How to apply for a patent

In Italy, as in many countries, patents are granted on the basis of the so-called “first to file” principle, which provides that the person who files the application first is the legitimate owner. But be careful, because once the patent application has been filed it is no longer possible to make changes.

The patent application remains secret for 18 months and the applicant has the possibility, if he changes his mind, to withdraw it and keep the filing secret.

How long does a patent last

Patents for inventions are protected from unauthorized use for a period of 20 years starting from the filing date, but only on the condition that the maintenance fees are paid promptly and, during this period, no requests for patents are accepted. invalidity or revocation.

The protection of the app with copyright

Computer programs are protected by copyright, in whatever form they are expressed, as long as they are original, i.e. the result of the author’s intellectual creation.

Protection relates to the program expressed in its source code, to its output – i.e. sounds, words or images, for example in video games – as well as to the interfaces with the user, i.e. the set of graphic images, messages and sounds that guide the user to intervene on the computer commands.

In the case of a software or an app, which has an original and creative character, it is therefore possible to protect it through publication and filing in the respective Public Software Registry, exercising the exclusive rights, in particular that of economic exploitation.

The exclusive rights in the software or app consist mainly of the right to carry out and authorize the reproduction, permanent or temporary, in whole or in part, of the program by any means or in any form; the translation, adaptation, transformation and any other modification of the software, the reproduction of the resulting work, and any form of distribution to the public, including rental, of the original program or copies thereof.

The services of Laforgia Bruni & Partners

Since it is not at all easy to navigate this labyrinth of laws and regulations, there are professional entities that support companies and startups in these processes. Even if an app is not patentable, remember that it enjoys copyright.

In Italy, among the leading experts in this sense we find Laforgia Bruni & Partners, a company specialized in patents, trademarks and protection of inventions. As regards apps and software, the company offers consultancy and assistance for the protection of works subject to copyright, preparation and filing and all related contracts.

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