October 14, 2015

Mobile Marking – Trademarks for your App Icon        

by Guest Blogger

It seems that everywhere you look, there truly is an "app for that." New mobile apps are developed daily, ranging from games to highly specialized scientific apps. But, apps are not limited to tech companies. Service providers in all kinds of industries are routinely launching apps for their customers, including your bank, your pharmacy, and even your favorite pizza parlor.

If you want to launch an app, your trademark will be vital to your ability to distinguish yourself in app stores and ensure that you can keep copycats at a safe distance. The name of your app (such as "facebook") as well your mobile icon


are both trademarks, and we recommend registering both with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Where the icon is concerned, many developers fail to plan the design of their app icon until they are ready to upload to the app store. Your app icon, however, should not be a mere afterthought. It plays an important role in your overall branding strategy and is often the first way a consumer encounters your app. Consumers make assumptions about their potential user experience based on appearancesâsimilar to a book cover. Consumers need to be able to distinguish from one app to the next and find a reason to download your particular app.

A recent search of apps for music players revealed a bunch of icons with music notes and headphones. Are any instantly recognizable to you?


The particular letters, colors, and pictures are each considered in determining whether your customers will be able to find you and ensuring that you are not using an icon that is too close to someone else. Apple developer conferences often have entire sessions devoted to the art of tile design. Some suggestions to cut through the clutter include:

Have a unique shape

Limit text

Use a limited color palette

Keep it simple

While having limited colors and design elements may be desirable for small icons, from a trademark perspective, that means you have to work harder to ensure you are unique enough to garner protection and avoid infringing another icon. You should also try to anticipate what elements others may use for a similar kind of application and try to avoid generic graphics that will be overused.

It is often the case that a single letter or picture is used:


If you are only using one letter, then it is more likely that others are using that letter too, so the particular coloring and stylization will be important to your design. As you are searching to make sure you are clear to use a new icon design (as I hope you are), keep in mind that not all software applications are created equally. Just because two different apps use the same single letter in an icon does not necessarily mean that it is going to be a problem. Since software exists in virtually every industry, the two apps generally must be related in some way for their icons to be an infringement. If an app is used for personal banking, then that icon probably won't be confused with an icon for an app that lets you use your mobile phone as a flashlight. There is an exception where an app has achieved a high level of recognition and is deemed famous, in which case the famous icon may be entitled to broader protection.

A trademark attorney can help you navigate the waters to arrive at a beautiful and memorable tile worthy of downloads.

With Halloween coming up, if you are still in need of costume ideas, consider going as your favorite app icon or team up with friends for a group costume sure to be liked.