Do you have an exclusive app idea in your mind? Are you afraid that somebody might steal it from you and apply it before you? Well, luckily there is the intellectual property law – particularly patent, trademark, and copyright law that safeguards mobile app ideas. Many entrepreneurs and startup owners believe in patenting their app ideas to keep others away from using, making, or selling them.
Patenting a unique app idea is required for shielding it from the copycats in the marketplace as they might seek a chance for stealing it. However, your app idea should be new and exclusive to be subject to patent law. Your efforts will go in vain if it’s a clone of other applications.
One of the most asked questions by startups and entrepreneurs before starting mobile app development is “how to patent a mobile app”. Here we will cover the ultimate guide on patenting a mobile app idea before discussing it with app development team in case you have a unique app idea.
What Is Meant By Patenting A Mobile App Idea?
In simple language, a patent is an intellectual property law that
- Protects your app ideas against illegal and/or non-consensual usage.
- Prohibits other companies or individuals from changing or selling it, considering you your app idea’s rightful owner.
- Makes sure that none gets profits or ruins by claiming credit falsely for your unique idea.
Can You Patent Your Mobile App Idea?
Yes, you can patent a mobile app idea as it’s an element with various ways of interaction. The app code cannot be patented as it comes under the law category covered by copyrights. Hence, you can patent the way or procedure of the app that it follows for performing a specific task.
Why Patent an App Idea?
Your app idea authorizes protection in the context of being your exclusive intellectual property. Using an official patent, you hold the right to look for compensation from any party that tries to violate present patent laws. Here are the main reasons for patenting an app idea:
- You can legally accuse every clone of your original application that is introduced before or in the lineup with the latter.
- Your patent legally proves the uniqueness and originality of your app idea.
- No cunning party can exploit your mobile app idea financially.
What Are The Eligibility Criteria To Qualify For A Patent?
Three prime points decide the patent eligibility for a mobile app idea. They are as follows:
1. It Must Be an Invention
Patents are utilized for safeguarding inventions. As per WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), they are provided to the invention that is explained as a solution to every issue.
Since the mobile app idea is not a physical thing, the app process is categorized as an invention. Nevertheless, the procedure should fix every issue simply like any invention.
2. Your App Idea Should Be Unique and New
Even if your mobile app idea fixes users’ issues, it doesn’t mean it qualifies for the patent. Your application idea should be original and new.
It should not have been launched earlier publicly, incorporating YouTube videos, books, articles, pending patent apps, and other sources. It should be unique and must not exist already else you cannot patent it.
Read also: How to Validate Your Mobile App Idea?
3. It Should Be Qualified As Useful
Being qualified as a useful app does not imply that your application idea cannot be under the entertainment category or something else like that. Your app just needs to perform at least in theory. This restriction stops people from patenting these apps that are not useful.
Hence, you must produce a detailed and concrete description like how your app performs for claiming it as your asset.
How to Check Whether Your App Idea Has Already Been Patented or Not
You need to check if a possibly unique mobile app idea features already patent by another party. For this reason, a detailed study is needed on every associated app idea that is either pending or marketed. Your state or country will have an operational database where this data is preserved and accessed.
Moreover, you can analyze through the IPC Catchword Index of WIPO that contains data related to different international patents. This way you can understand how to patent a mobile app idea.
Read also: 13 Things You Should Know Before You Invest in Your Next Mobile App Idea!
Basic Steps to Follow to Patent an App Idea
Here’s the basic steps you should follow to understand how to patent an app idea.
1. Discover and Register with a Patent Lawyer
To present a precisely made top-notch patent and maximize the scopes of your patent application getting chosen, you need to consult with and employ a patent lawyer who deals with software patenting. He/she must be experienced in this.
As it’s a legal procedure, it might incorporate litigation. So, don’t try to do it by yourself and just employ a professional. You are not recommended to select the first attorney you find. Make a detailed study and seek the best that fits your budget.
2. Disclose Your Mobile App Invention
Having an app idea does not mean that your work is done. You have to bring the idea into reality to confirm its convenience and this is one of its eligibility criteria to get patented. As the court asks for proper proof of your invention before issuing a patent against your app, you need to ensure to document the entire app development process.
Furthermore, you can make a prototype of your mobile app to test its flow. This will help your lawyer to assess your app’s flowchart as it’s not the code but the app procedures and functionalities that get patented. It can amazingly analyze different operations of your app in various industries and provides you a new direction for thinking of what other components in your app are qualified to get patented.
3. Exercise Patent Search
Maybe you have studied well, but you are still recommended to employ a patent lawyer who conducts a global search for apps similar to yours or have the same flows or functionalities.
This way you can abstain from any unpredicted breach from other organizations. Spending some money and ensuring your patent has the maximum scope of getting approved are better.
4. File a Provisional or Non-Provisional Patent Application
Provisional and Non-Provisional Patent Applications are two types that you can utilize as a patent application for your mobile app.
Under provisional application, you can file without a formal patent claim, declaration, or even data disclosure statement. This application type provides some perks:
- Allows you to use the term ‘Patent Pending’ on an app.
- It considers 12 months for creating the MVP.
- It is less costly to prepare in comparison with non-provisional applications.
Under non-provisional applications, you can file without any claim created on the application made in the convention nation or with no app reference that is present in the procedure. It should be accompanied by a total claim and specifications. It must have the invention’s written description and a claim that defines the invention legally.
To select between provisional and non-provisional application, you must consider:
- How long you want to delay patent text expenses.
- How quickly you want your patent approved.
If your need is related to the aforesaid second point, non-provisional is the best option for you. If the first one is your requirement, just go for a provisional application.
5. Submit Your Patent Application
This is the final step of patenting a mobile app idea. After performing the aforesaid steps successfully and preparing a patent application, you need to file it with the USPTO.
Although it’s a tedious procedure that demands lots of paperwork, you should explore it. Some vital documents that you may need during this procedure include:
- Declaration or Oath
- Data Disclosure Statement
- Entity Status Form
- Application Data Sheet
- Patent Cooperation Treaty (Optional and for International Filings)
- Cover Sheet
- Fee Sheet
- Application to Make Special (Optional)
What to Do If the App Idea Is Already Patented?
If your patent study discloses that already somebody else has patented the idea, you don’t need to lose hope. Research the patent cautiously and consider how to make your app different from the old one. Just don’t give up on the idea as you can always change and innovate it to make it better and new.
When Do You Need to File for a Patent?
These days, patenting an app is not considered to the individual who has invented it first, but is considered to the person who files the patent against it. This is the most important reason why startups and business owners like to file a provisional patent before disclosing vital details publicly.
You will find many patent lawyers who recommend patenting an app idea before discussing it to any promising investor. In case you have signed a non-disclosure agreement, you can make yourself ready to file quickly.
How Much Does It Cost to Patent a Mobile App?
Undoubtedly, the costs associated with mobile app patents vary as per a patent’s category. Provisional patents’ price range lies between $2000 and $5000. You can refine your app and launch it after using a provisional patent, to see its success in the market. The validity of a provisional patent expires after one year of its grant.
The price range of non-provisional patents lies between $10000 and $15000. Hence, an admin entity checks your patent application for some years to see whether it warrants a patent or not.
How Much Time Does It Require For Patenting a Mobile App?
Many times, applications get rejected and they need to be submitted again. Depending on the circumstances, this back and forth procedure can last almost 4-6 years.
Now you must be sure that patenting an app idea needs hard work. However, if you believe in your idea and consider that it has the competence of becoming an invention, you must patent your app. Maybe the procedure is slightly critical, but it’s less tedious than handling some clone apps stealing and violating your business ideas or facing a patent breach lawsuit.
FAQs About Patent An App Idea
There are many aspects of your app that you can patent like networking, data pushing, data privacy, messaging services, reporting feedback, database creation, server processing, etc.
You can easily know if someone already patented your app idea by login to the USPTO or Google patents website and searching appropriate keywords for all patents filed.
There are few alternatives to app patent to secure your app idea such as copyright, trademark, and NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreements).