Protection of an application

A multitude of services are based on applications: social networking applications, games, emails, text editing, banking, GPS… Applications are everywhere and are becoming indispensable: they are of great value. Moreover, their design often requires significant investment. It is, therefore, essential for developers and companies designing applications to protect their creations.

1) How to protect my application?

An application, also known as an “app” or “apps”, is a computer program used to perform one or more tasks. It runs on the operating system of a phone, tablet, or computer. The application is not protected as a whole, each component has its own protection:

  • The software behind the application:
  • Software-specific copyright:

The software, i.e., the program (source and object code) and the preparatory design materials are protected by software-specific copyright. Elements such as the algorithm and functionality are not protected but may be covered by an unfair competition action in the event of improper use, under certain conditions.

This protection grants economic rights valid for up to 70 years after the author’s death (right to control exploitation, distribution, prohibit the use, adaptations, etc.) and moral rights (right of attribution, right to respect for the work, etc.) which are perpetual and non-transferable. However, specific exceptions exist.

One of the particularities is that copyright ownership of software created by employees is vested in the employer(unlike traditional copyright, which provides that ownership of rights is vested in the author of the work).

This protection is automatic, with no filing formalities, provided that the software is original and materialized: the author of the software must have made an intellectual contribution of his own, other than mere intellectual know-how and the technique deployed.

However, it may be difficult to prove the date of creation or who the author is. It is therefore advisable to obtain evidence to prove the date and ownership of the creation, using proof of anteriority, such as the certificate.

  • Patent:

A patent is an intellectual property title that protects a product or process that provides a new technical solution to a given technical problem. Computer programs as such are expressly excluded from this protection (Article L611-10 of the Intellectual Property Code).

However, it is possible to patent a software that has a technical effect that goes beyond the usual physical interaction between the software and the computer on which it runs, or that is part of a broader invention that meets the conditions for patentability, although these possibilities are subtle.

For more information: software protection.

  • The visual elements of the application:

These visual elements can be protected by two types of intellectual property law:

  • Design law: the graphic interface.

The aesthetic aspect of a graphic interface, including icons, can be protected by design law. This right protects the appearance and ornamentation of an object, i.e., the lines, contours, colours, shapes, and textures.

This right arises through registration with the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). To benefit from this protection, strict conditions must be met: the creation must be new, have a distinctive, visible, and lawful character, and must not be dictated by technology.

After registration, the holder has a 5-year monopoly of use from the date of filing, which can be extended to 25 years.

However, many of the designs benefiting from design rights are already protected by copyright law. This is the theory of the unity of art: an object with a particular aesthetic, regardless of its use, benefits from copyright provided that it is original. See our article on the complementarity of these rights.

  • Copyright: the graphic interface and the content of the application (images, logos, graphics, texts, etc.).

This law protects intellectual works, which covers a wide range of creations: texts, books, drawings, music, videos, etc. The only requirement is that the creation must be original and materialized. The protection is valid for 70 years after the death of the author. It is an exclusive intangible property right opposable to all.

This right is acquired automatically by the mere fact of the materialisation of creation, without the need for registration. Thus, most of the content of an application, for example, its images, videos, graphics, logos or texts, benefit from copyright as soon as they are created, if they are original, i.e., if they bear the imprint of the author’s personality.

However, it is advisable to constitute proof to be able to attest the date and ownership of the creation, using the means of proof of anteriority, such as the certificate.

For more information: copyright and design law.

  • The application’s database:

The application’s database can be protected in two ways: by classical copyright and by the sui generis right of the database producer

  • Classic copyright:

This is copyright law as set out above. For databases, it protects the form, structure, arrangement, layout, and presentation of the material. Copyright, therefore, protects the form of the database.

The database must meet the requirement of originality, which is adjusted: it must be an “organised and structured collection” of information, not a mere collection of data. The associated rights and the method of proof are the same as set out above.

  • Sui generis right for database producers:

This law specifically concerns database producers, i.e., the entity or individual that takes the initiative to invest.

Here, it protects the content of the database provided that a financial, material, or human investment is made, which must be substantial, qualitative, or quantitative for the constitution, verification, or presentation of the content of the database.

The resulting rights are valid for 15 years , and renewable with each new investment. They allow to prohibit the extraction or re-use of all or a quantitatively or qualitatively substantial part of the contents of the database.

In addition to keeping any element that can demonstrate such investments, the formalities for securing these rights are the same as those set out above for copyright: proof of anteriority.

To find out more: database protection.

  • The name of the application:

The name of the application can be protected for its distinctive function under trademark law. A trademark is a sign that distinguishes the goods and services of a company from those of competitors. The application’s logo can also be protected as a trademark (in addition to copyright).

Trademark law grants a monopoly on the exploitation of the trademark for the goods and services designated by the applicant. To be protected as a trademark, the name or logo must be registered with the French National Institute of Intellectual Property (INPI). The trademark must meet the conditions of distinctiveness, availability, and lawfulness. Protection is valid for 10 years and can be renewed indefinitely.

To find out more: trademark law.

  • The concept of the application:

Ideas are not protectable under intellectual property law. The functioning of the application remains an idea or concept and cannot be protected as such.

However, judges have been able to recognise that a concept could be protected by unfair competition law if it “constitutes an economic value, individualised and providing a competitive advantage, the result of know-how, intellectual work and investment” (T. Com. Paris, 28 September 2015, n°2014-027464, Sound Strategy v. Concepson; confirmed on appeal: CA Paris, 7 March 2017, n°15/22802). It is the result of an investment, which may be promotional, economical, intellectual, or even the result of a reputation.

It is then advisable to constitute a proof of anteriority to be able to attest the date and the ownership of the concept. This is possible with the service.

To find out more: the protection of concepts.

2) How to secure my copyright with the service?

The anteriority certificate enables you to prove that your creations existed at a certain date, and that you are the author. This type of service is important, as seen above, for creations that depend on copyright, but also for securing innovative concepts and elements that cannot be protected by intellectual property.

It is, in fact, essential to obtain proof of anteriority to be able to prove that you are indeed the author of your creation at a certain date. This makes it easier to claim your copyright, particularly in the event of future copying or challenge by a competitor or in the event of a dispute over confidentiality.

The anteriority certificate provides indisputable proof of anteriority, through the intervention of a Bailiff (depending on the offer selected), but also through the qualified electronic timestamp, which has evidential value, including internationally.

To apply for a anteriority certificate, the process can be completed online. Please visit the following address: