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Everything You Need to Know About your Mobile App Patent- A Definitive Guide

29 June 2021
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The ability to convert ideas to things is the secret of outward success.

Henry Ward Beecher

A good idea is hard to find, but when we do, we should make sure to turn that idea into success. The competition in the world of mobile apps and mobile app development is increasing day by day, and to stand out, you need to develop a disruptive app that has the potential of attracting more and more customers.

Now, it is very normal for humans to feel paranoid when it comes to authenticating your idea and preventing anybody else from stealing your app idea.

So, what could be done to prevent unfortunate incidents like these? Is there a way out? Well, of course, there is!

The concept of “app patent” is not new, but a very complicated one to understand.

This blog post would help you understand what a patent is, whether your app stands the eligibility concept or not!

What is a patent?

We are all familiar with the term-patent and would have at least heard it once in our lives. However, very few people would know what it means. A patent is a right granted by the government to the inventors to protect their product, and if any individual copies, uses, sells, or imports the invention, the inventors can legally sue them. App patent allows you to officially disclose it in the app market, without having to worry that someone might steal your app idea.

As small and simple as it may seem, app patenting can save you from many nasty situations. Patent, which is a type of intellectual property rights (IPRs), is majorly concerned with creations of the mind, such as inventions, literary works, designs, symbols, names, and images majorly used in commerce. Apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and Dropbox fall under this category.

The growing number of app patents depicts the necessity of the same.

Source: Iam Media

There are two different types of the patent under statutory law that implies mobile app patents:

1. Utility Patents- These are the most common patents granted to new machines and processes.

2. Design Patents- Design patents are granted for the protection of the unique design of the manufactured objects.

What are the eligibility criteria for app patents?

Now as we know that you need to patent your mobile app, but this doesn't necessarily mean that your app is eligible for a mobile app patent. So, what is the eligibility criteria?  This section would help you understand that-

First and foremost, your mobile app should be an invention. According to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), patents are granted to mobile apps that are developed as a potential solution to an identified issue. The patent office is also going to look at whether the app is unique or not, this means if anything substantially similar to your web or mobile app is already patented, you might lose the chance.

Source: The Rise of Patent Litigation in America: 1980 - 2012 - IPWatchdog.com | Patents & Patent Law

Essentially, to gain a patent for your android or iOS mobile app, it should have patentable features. These features should be new and shouldn't have been a c0mmon practice for the developers at the time of their creation. The suggestion here is to get started with brainstorming keywords that are relevant to your app's purpose and then look up to them in the Index to the U.S patent classification to find a potential class/subclass.

Different countries have different rules for patent search and filing. For example, in Europe, they place much stricter limits on the patents of software-based inventions and make it essential for your mobile app to provide a technical solution to a technical problem. The catch here is that maybe you would face more difficulties to patent a game app because you can't define a "technical problem" for that. 

What if we don’t patent our mobile app?

Various mobile app developers and startups tend to ignore the process of patent filing for their mobile app, which could lead to serious situations are mentioned below:

1. Unethical imitation

This is the most obvious and widely understood cover for patent filing. Businesses and leaders in the same industry can imitate your app idea, make some basic variations and launch in the mobile app market. Filing an app patent before launching your app in the app market could save you from a lot of unnecessary headaches and safeguard your supremacy.

2. Increase in competition

If your competitors are working in an overlapping market on a similar product with a few improvements and variations, you would surely face a huge amount of competition. Your market shares and revenue generation may significantly drop leaving you in vain.

3. Loss of profits

Ignoring a patent for your mobile app can lead to loss of intellectual property, innovation, and technological lead for your organization. Along with these, you can also face losses in your profits that would have been generated from the newly created revenue stream.

What are the steps for patent filing?

One of the frequently asked questions by newbies of the mobile app development world is- "How to file an app patent?" This section would help you find the answer to this question-

Source: Patent Registration India | PatentOne IP Services

1. Find a patent attorney and enlist your mobile app patent:

To increase the chances of your patent getting selected, you should present a well-informed high-end patent.  Make sure to consult and hire a mobile app development organization or patent attorney to ease the legal process. It is always advised to hire a professional rather than trying to do it by yourself. Research well and find an attorney that is well-suited to your needs.

2. Invention disclosure

They say, "having an idea is half the work done." To turn these ideas into robust apps, you need to confirm the feasibility of the app. To collect the proofs to present in the court, you should make sure to document the whole invention process. Creating a prototype of the app is another way to break down the entire development process.

Source: Patenting an Invention | MIT Technology Licensing Office

The prototype would help the attorney to figure out the entire flowchart of your application. The patent is filed for the app functionality, not for the code, hence presenting it in the right format becomes very important.

3. Practicing patent search

This is one of the most important steps while filing a patent. Doing your homework well would provide you additional stars while patent filing. Hiring the right patent attorneys would assist you in conducting global searches for patent applications that are similar to yours, to avoid any infringement from other organizations.

You would all agree that it is better to spend a few bucks to maximize the chances of your patent getting sanctioned, rather than starting from scratch. The USPTO website is the best place for your research.

4. Provisional or non-provisional patent application

While filing for the patent of your mobile app, you would come across two different patent apps- provisional and non-provisional patent applications.

Provisional Application: The most common type of patent application is a provisional application. In this type of application, you would be able to file the patent without a formal declaration, claim or even form an information disclosure statement.

With a provisional patent application, you get 12 months to develop the MVP, and this method is less expensive in comparison to non-provisional applications.

Non-provisional application: This application can be filed without any claims of an application made in the convection country or with app reference already in process. A written description of the invention along with a claim that legally defines the invention should be filed with the non-provisional application.

Having a dilemma choosing one of the two above-mentioned applications, answer these two questions-

1. How fast do you want your patent to be granted?

2. How much time do you need for a patent examination?

These two questions would help you choose the best-suited patent filing process for you. If you want a faster process for your patent grant, provisional is the best-suited application process for you.

5. Submitting your patent application

This is the final step towards submitting your patent idea. Once you are successfully done with all the above-mentioned steps, and your patent attorney has prepared the patent application, you are required to submit the file with the USPTO.

Submitting the patent application is a tedious process, so you must apply carefully. Here is a list of files that are to be submitted with the patent application process:

  • Oath/Declaration
  • Specification
  • Entity status form
  • Information Disclosure Statement
  • Application Datasheet (ADS)
  • Claims
  • (optional) Patent cooperation treaty (for International filings)
  • Drawings
  • (optional) Application to make special fee sheet
  • Cover sheet

What is the cost of patenting a mobile app?

The cost of an app patent varies according to the type of patent application.  The USPTO listings provide you a complete overview of the costs including every fee for patent application.

Also, some basic changes are required to be paid while filing the app patent application that ranges anywhere between $1000-$2000. The costs for Provisional patents price lie between $2000 and $5000 and for non-provisional patents lie between $10000- $15000.

The admin entity keeps an overview of the patent for a few years and checks the validity of the patent.

What are the alternatives to App patent?

1. Copyright

The debate between going for mobile copyright or patent is a long one. Similar to patents, copyrights are also a type of IPRs but are a bit different. It is a collection of rights that are issued to the inventor of the author of the works that could be literary, artistic, educational, musical, or computer programs. These rights allow the owner to publish or reproduce the work irrespective of whether it is published or not.

While creating a mobile app, it also protects the expression of ideas and not the idea itself. So, in this case, you can copyright the app logo, not the app itself, as it covers the facts, idealism systems, and methods of the invention.

2. Trademark

The major difference between patent and trademark is that patent protects others from making or selling the invention, whereas the trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, and logos that identify the goods and services of the originator preventing the other competitors from using them. The trademark can therefore be used for the logo of the application.

3. NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreements)

NDA is a document or a type of contract that you sign with the entities you work with on a project. This document is generally signed between you and the mobile app development organization. This Non-disclosure agreement, as the name suggests, legally binds the two entities to keep all the information regarding the mobile app idea and technicalities confidential. Similar to app patents, this agreement also saves the mobile app and mobile app idea from outsiders.

Conclusion

Although mobile app patents are an indispensable part of your app development journey, they require a lot of effort. Patenting your mobile app idea not only safeguards the idea from anybody stealing it but also validates your idea for the app development market.

So, this definitive guide provides you all the answers you need to know regarding your mobile app patent.

Own the mobile app & turn your idea into an invention with mobile app patents. Schedule a free consultation with app Development Company today to save yourself from all the mobile app patent hassles.

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Debut Infotech is a global mobile app and digital product development company that leverages Blockchain, IoT, AI, and other cutting-edge technologies to help SMEs, startups, and global enterprises harness the incredible power of modern digital products to drive their online businesses to unwavering new heights. 

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