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How to Protect Your App Idea

Ideas on how to protect your app

If you have an idea for an app you may be wondering how to protect your app idea, and if that is even possible.

Whether you’re a startup, or a corporation wanting to develop new technology, there are some easy steps you can take when protecting an app idea.

Here are some of our suggestions on what to do if you have an app idea and how you can protect it.

1. No Need to Sign an NDA

Big Fish is a custom app design company in Tampa, Florida. A few times a year we’re asked if we’ll sign an NDA before an initial conversation about someone’s app idea.

The short answer is No, we won’t sign an NDA for your app idea.

A Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) is a legally binding contract. We sign legal contracts with our clients, but we don’t sign them with just anyone who wants to talk about their app idea.

At Big Fish we work primarily with established, already successful companies that need an app development team for hire. The request to sign an NDA is more commonly made by startups.

At this stage in the game you probably want and need advice and feedback. Putting an NDA between you and any person that could help, will only slow you down.

Steve Jobs famously said “To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed… Execution is worth millions.”

You’re far too worried about protecting your app idea. Most, if not all, of the people you want to talk to will have absolutely no interest in taking your idea and developing it for themselves, so there is no need to sign an NDA for your app just to discuss the idea.


Quote from Steve Jobs - To me, ideas are worth nothing unless executed... Execution is worth millions.

Here’s what to do instead of asking for an NDA if you are concerned about protecting your app idea…

2. Share the 80% to Protect Your App

Before going out for advice, consider what makes your app unique.

What about it is proprietary? What is your “secret sauce”?

Your whole app is not proprietary. I can assure you there is already at least one app that exists that already does most (and possibly everything) your app will do. It just may function in a different way, or be targeted to a different audience.

Once you know what really makes your app different, you can talk about the other 80% all day and be confident that your app is protected.

3. Trademark the Name or Logo

Trademarking is a way to protect your app name and logo.

But, you can’t trademark an idea until that idea is in tangible form. Tangible could be a logo, icon or app name that you are actively using. Examples of actively using are: you have a published website, you have an app in the app store, you have an active social media presence.

In the case of software, you also may not be able to patent it. Check out this in-depth article about patenting an app if you’re interested.

Here’s what else you can do to protect your app idea…

4. Stop Trying to Protect Your App Idea

Instead, get out there and tell people about it. You might discover that your idea is terrible and could save yourself a lot of time and money. Or, you might find exactly what you’re looking for.

5. If You’re a Corporation…

Maybe you aren’t a startup. You’re an organization that has a mobile project coming up and need to interview app design and development companies. But, you also don’t want to risk competitors getting wind of what you’re doing.

Here’s the thing. Hopefully, the app design company you consider hiring is of the reputable type, like Big Fish (shameless plug). If this is the case, it is really not in their best interest (or any interest) to share your business secrets with the world.

But, just in case you have lingering concern about protecting your app idea…follow the advice I gave above about only discussing the 80%.

I have had initial calls with companies that were productive for both of us…and at the end I couldn’t have told you exactly what mobile application they had up their sleeves.

6. Get Legal Advice for Apps

Brent Britton is an intellectual property lawyer in Tampa, Florida. He has an informative blog that you can read for free, or call him to schedule a consultation. He provides details on how an intellectual property lawyer can offer you legal advice for apps and help you protect your app idea.

Final Thoughts about Protecting Your App Idea

My hope is that you’re now at least a little less concerned about the need to protect your app idea, while it’s still just an idea. If not, then I’ve armed you with some actionable ideas so you can get out and talk about it, without completely spilling the beans.

To your success!

This article is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Please consult with a lawyer for legal advice.

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara @ Big Fish

Sara MacQueen is the Founder and President of Big Fish - we turn revolutionary ideas into reality through custom software design and development. Sara was named one of "25 Mobile Women to Watch" and has been interviewed by local and national media for her expertise in mobile technology and business. When she's not working, Sara enjoys hiking and cooking meals from scratch with ingredients found at farmers markets.

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