Thomas Edison famously said, “The value of an idea lies in the using of it.” No group better embodies that statement than our members.
At ACT | The App Association, our members invest so heavily in their intellectual property (IP) because it represents the lifeblood of their products and our industry at large. The distinct rights attributed to patents, trademarks, and copyrights each represent years of hard work and investment to protect the ingenuity and ideas that make a company unique. Recently, we issued a survey to a small focus group of our members to better understand the role IP plays in growing and protecting their businesses. The resounding answer was that IP plays a significant role in protecting their businesses’ assets, and more must be done to preserve IP rights.
Though this 23-person focus group represented a small sample size of our broader membership base, we learned a great deal about the trends and issues that impact IP use and its protections. Here are a few of the highlights:
- 85 percent of respondents own IP, whether it be copyrights, trademarks, patents, or trade secrets, or a combination of the four,
- Nearly three-fourths of all respondents own a trademark, and
- 60 percent own a patent.
Our members’ responses to this survey demonstrate that a significant number of our members own and have made intellectual property a priority. And as a result, they have faced some common challenges in keeping that IP safe. Here’s what we found:
- All the respondents who own a trademark have trademarked their company name. Only 60 percent of our members with trademarks have trademarked their logo, while 40 percent have trademarked their designs.
- 80 percent of respondents with a trademark have experienced “cybersquatting,” or the practice of registering others’ names—especially well-known company and brand names—as internet domains, in the hope of reselling the domain to make a profit.
- Roughly one third of respondents with trademarks have experienced “brandjacking.” Brandjacking occurs when someone assumes the online identity of another entity to acquire that person’s or business’s brand equity.
- Only one in five respondents with a trademark license it to other companies.
- While 44 percent of respondents that own a copyright use it to protect their code, 22 percent of those copyright owners use it to protect their graphics.
- One third of respondents who own copyrights have experienced some sort of copyright infringement.
- Half of all respondents who own copyrights license them to others.
- There are two types of patents: 1) utility patents, which protect the creation of a new or improved product, process, or machine and 2) design patents, which protect the ornamental design of a functional item. Of the focus group’s patent owners, 86 percent own utility patents, while the remainder own design patents.
- Of the respondents who hold patents, half have experienced patent infringement.
- 33 percent of patent owners license their patent(s) to others.
These survey results provide a small snapshot of the widespread importance of IP to developers and creators in the hypercompetitive app economy. The results from our survey found that our members have experienced theft and threats from IP violators, and they need the ability to protect their IP across jurisdictions and economic boundaries.
This survey, and its results, remind us that a penny’s worth of prevention can be worth a pound of cure. It remains vitally important that our members have IP laws, rights, and practices that protect their ideas and creations in every market they may do business. Too many of our members know the severe consequences of IP infringement, whether it’s customer data loss, interruption of service, revenue loss, or reputational damage. This exercise provides us with a valuable opportunity to remind our members to take proactive steps to protect their ingenuity through copyright and trademark registrations and patent approval — and we’re here as a resource.
The App Association and our staff see the vital importance of strong IP rights across the globe. We continue to advocate for intellectual property protections in key legislative fora like the U.S. Supreme Court, where we filed amicus briefs on the TC Heartland and Oil States patent law cases last year, and in Congress where legislators are considering IP-related legislation.
Our advocacy in 2018 will be more important than ever. We look forward to working with our members to protect the valuable IP they currently hold and the future ideas and innovations that are to come.