Protecting your GUI

Protecting your GUI

Key advances in technology the last ten or more years has led to widespread availability and use of mobile phones, computers, and other personal electronic devices, all of which include graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Many businesses now rely on software packages or platforms to generate revenue, and these, too, include GUIs.

If your product includes a user interface, or your business relies on a software package or platform to generate revenue, then it is likely that your GUI is (or will be) an integral part of your brand. It could even become one of the most recognisable elements of your product or service. So how do you go about protecting your GUI from copying by competitors?


Copyright has traditionally been considered to be the principal means of intellectual property protection for the display screens of software-embedded and computer-implemented innovation. It is, of course, an attractive IP right as it comes into being automatically, and without any registration process or associated cost.  Copyright certainly plays its part in protecting your software code and at least some of the visual elements of your GUI. However, it only really protects against direct copying, and not necessarily against a third party producing something with a display that looks a bit different but creates the same overall visual impression and, potentially, confuses customers into thinking it’s your product or service.

Registered Designs

It is for this reason that registered designs (or “design patents” in the USA) have become an increasingly popular part of IP strategy in relation to GUIs, and they have already served some of the biggest players in this field very well. For example, in  Apple vs. Samsung, Apple was initially awarded $533USD for infringement of three of its design patents by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd, including one directed to the GUI of its original iPhone iOS operating system.

1st generation iPhone

Many major jurisdictions, including the UK, EU and China, as well as the US, now accept GUIs for design registration. Even moving or animated parts of a user interface, such as user innovative user interactions, can be the subject of a registered design, and the potential power of this type of protection should not be overlooked.

What is the difference?

One essential benefit of design registration over copyright is that you do not have to prove that a third party has copied your GUI  – their GUI just needs to look similar enough to create the same overall visual impression to infringe your registered design. 

Don’t forget, a registered design does not just enable you to prevent competing products from taking part of your market share. It can also act to prevent sub-standard or poor quality copies from confusing your customers and, potentially, damaging your brand due to poor quality performance or a disappointing user experience from a product or service they think is yours.

You can read more about registered designs by visiting our website at

If you need help to protect your software-embedded or computer-implemented innovation, or need any other intellectual property advice, please book a free initial consultation by emailing or visit our website at

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