This tutorial is about protecting your work the DIY (do it yourself) way.
So you finished you app (finally), have plenty of ideas for the next one and your new website is almost ready for showtime. You can't wait to tell your friends on facebook to like your new web page and download your app.
Before long, you come across a little word that somehow sticks to the back of your mind.
Google is all you need to learn everything you need to know about copyright. Basically, adding the © symbol to the footer of your website and on the splash screen of your app is all that is needed to protect yourself.
Registering a Copyright
I would like to encourage you to go one step further. Unlike a trademark, registering a copyright is relatively cheap.
The cost to register a copyright in the US is $35.00 plus Tax
The cost to register a copyright in Canada is $50.00
Note: The amount stated above increases slightly if you don't pay with a major credit card.
Filling out the online forms is straight forward.
You provide your name, address, title of the work you want to copyright and state the category. Software generally falls under the "Literary" category.
After you complete the form and pay the fee you simply submit the online application and wait a few weeks.
Before too long, you will get a big yellow envelope from the government which is addressed to you.
Inside, you will find a certificate which includes the data you provided when you applied plus a registration number.
You have just protected your work for the rest of your life plus 70 years.
There is nothing else you have to do.
Everything you have created and developed to build your app with is now protected.
Let me tell you right away the copyrighting something is a piece of cake. It is cheap, fast and painless.
Trademarks are the opposite. Filing a trademark yourself is not encouraged but the good news (really, I mean it, GOOD NEWS) is that as soon as you start to snoop around google searching trademark, you will notice little google ads that point to low cost agencies who will file a trademark on your behalf for as little as $100 - 200 Dollars plus the filing fee.
Those businesses are well known and no doubt, your searches will lead you to forum posts where those who used the low budget services will state their experience.
All I want to say is that there is nothing wrong with these companies who provide those services.
They generally do what they advertise.
Why file a trademark?
A copyright protects your assets but not the title, name or slogan which you use to market and establish your brand.
Let's say you operate as "ABC Apps for Free" and your game is called: "Don't read, just listen".
You could trademark the name "ABC Apps for Free" which, assuming your trademark is granted, would then read ABC Apps for Free®
TM (two of the most powerful letters I know)
You could do the same for your app but there is another way which doesn't cost anything and the only downside is that you don't get to send someone someone who steals your name a "cease and desist" letter.
How ever, even if you have a proper trademark it is, in my opinion, next to impossible to sue someone especially if the low life who ripped you off on purpose is located in another country (which often is the case).
Trademarks are a mess. Say you payed and waited and after 16+ months you got your trademark. Are you now fully protected? Not really because you have registered your trademark only in one country. Sine we are talking apps here I assume you understand that registering a trademark internationally is only for the big boys. Make that BIG boys.
To make things worse, if you display your registered trademark symbol (R) in a country for which you didn't register, you will be fined and worse, could lose the opportunity to ever sell in that country again.
Here is a good solution which gives you enough protection so that ripping you off is too much of a hassle for the big boys (thy rather just buy you out).
To still let everyone know that you reserve a certain name (like "Don't read, just listen™") to be used for your app and your app only, you simply add the letters "TM" after your title.
TM is a "self declared" trademark and you can use it legally around the world all the way to the moon and beyond.
When you submit your app to an app store, include your copyright plus add ™ after your title.
As soon as your app gets published, you have proof of the date you used your (self declared) trademark first and from that point on it would be very expensive to challenge you.
Now don't just add ™ to your app name.
YOU NEED TO SEARCH THE TRADEMARK DATABASE
Adding ™ to your app name and using a name which is already trademarked is illegal and will ruin you financially.
What if someone has already an app with the name I want to use for my app and she/he added the ™ symbol?
Do right. Walk away and thing of something else.
The only exception is if that app is country and language specific. You could still ™ your app with the same name because the ™ only protects you locally where you operate.
If, for example, someone in the US would use the same name as I am using for one of my apps and ads ™ to the name then so be it.
The advantage of having a brand and a website which reflects that brand (meaning that google will list you on top) is more than enough to minimize the impact.
Only a fool would use an app that is already used because doing so would only send the proper owner more web traffic.
I hope this will inspire you to search and learn more about copyrights and trademarks. It all sounds complicated (and it really is) but at the same time, there is nothing to it.
Just add the ™ to your app name and include a message on the splash screen of your app and website that "Appname™ is Copyright © 201x by Your Name. All Rights Reserved.