Patenting Your Mobile App

Do you have an app idea and want to protect it? Would getting the app patented be the right way to go about it? A number of factors need to be considered in order to answer that question. But before we begin listing those factors, it is important for you to understand what a patent is. A patent is a negative right where the US government – or any other sovereign state – endows you the exclusive right to exclude others from building or selling your work. It gives you the assurance that someone will not infringe on your work and claim it as theirs, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee that.

Before you think of filing a patent, make sure the mobile app you’ve built is unique and there is a likelihood of it becoming very popular. Merely filing a patent on a product that no one wants will only incur costs and time spent without any return to the entrepreneur. In such a case, it would be better for the person to focus on business than wasting time on getting the app patented. It is important to identify the need to protect your app.

A patent for mobile app is only granted if the app is completely developed. Ideas cannot be patented. It is important to note that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has specific criteria to determine eligibility for a patent. The USPTO looks at whether your mobile app uses any “methods or processes for producing a useful, concrete, and tangible result” previously patented, published or used. If it does, then your mobile app does not have a chance of getting a patent issued. It is, therefore, advisable that you go through the existing database of patents.

In case of mobile apps, the patent is issued for the process and not the code or the idea of the app. They code can, however, be copyrighted. Patents can be broadly placed in three different categories and only two out of the three apply in the case of mobile apps. These are – utility and design patents. Software patents can protect systems, methods and functions within your app, such as user-interface features, editing functions, compiling techniques, or program language translation methods. You cannot get software patent issued until at least a year after it has been introduced into the market. Most entrepreneurs tackle this situation by filing for a provisional patent. A provisional patent is valid for one year.

Filing a non-provisional patent can cost anywhere from $8,000 to $15,000 including the attorney fees.