Ideas are the fundamental units of everything material around us. Everything man-made around us was once an idea in somebody’s head. Ideas are the reason why survival has been possible for mankind. This is also true when it comes to the world of technology. Due to the increase in the demand of the multifaceted market of technology, it is important to know that the customer base is ever-increasing.
However, what would happen if someone plagiarizes your mobile app idea and uses it as your own? Do not worry as there are multiple ways to avoid such a thing from happening. Patenting your mobile app idea is one such method to stop the plagiarism of your ideas. By doing this, it stops others from stealing your idea and tagging it as their own. With the competitive landscape of technology, it is necessary to patent your idea before pitching it to the investors and market.
According to Statista, revenue from mobile apps is projected to experience significant growth across various segments in the coming years. The overall mobile app revenue is anticipated to soar to approximately 613 billion U.S. dollars by the year 2025.
What is a Patent?
A patent is a type of intellectual property right that is offered to the inventor of an idea or a business owner. The holder of a patent is allowed exclusive rights over their discovery/creation making sure no third party can create, sell, or use the produced object without awaited permission.
- It safeguards your app idea from content stealers which creates an invisible shield around your concept. This shield ensures the security of your app as no one can buy, sell, or use your idea without potential risks.
- Patents are generally provided for 20 years from the filing date. This tenure is given to you to determine the different ways in which your app idea will be utilized.
- Your market status is instantly elevated if you possess a patent. It represents the vision and innovation that your company possesses and entices potential investors and partners as they understand the value and creativity of your app.
Types of Patent Applications
There are four kinds of patents- Utility, Design, Provisional, and Non-Provisional Patents.
Utility Patent Application
Issued all around the world, especially in the United States, Utility Patents are responsible for more than two-thirds of all the patents issued. These are issued for the invention of something new, useful, and non-obvious. These inventions could be any machine, process, composition of matter, manufactured article, or any refurbishment over the previous invention.
There are three types of utility- General Utility focuses on functionality, specific utility focuses on the approach of invention performing a function, and moral utility ensures the invention is not poisonous or allows misuse.
Design Patent Application
This is a patent that is exclusively issued for design and structures. It can also include other items such as specific chairs, tables, fonts with novelty, shoes, machinery, unique computer icons, etc. A design patent caters to inventions that purely serve the purpose of aesthetic or ornamental value. These cannot be functional.
Provisional Patent Application
A temporary application that the patent office does not review or analyze is called a provisional patent application. The creators utilize this patent to issue an early priority date and buy more time to finish the product before they can apply for a non-provisional patent application.
Non-Provisional Patent Application
This is the most common type of patent application. This patent application, confirms the validity of the product and evaluates it as a certified product or an app.
Below are a few important points to look out for before patenting your idea that makes it eligible:
New and Unique
You guessed it correctly! The idea cannot be patent-worthy if it is a copy of another or is not inimitable in its approach. Make sure it is new and unique. The idea must not be mentioned in public books, articles, or other sources.
Must be an ‘Invention’
Patents provide enough protection for ideas that become inventions. Due to the inimitability of the product, a patent will be issued to the creator of it.
Your product will be rendered invalid if it does not solve any issues for your target audience and remains completely useless. Make sure that the audience can benefit from it so that your product fulfills its purpose. Your app will not be patented if it is not useful.
How to Patent An App Idea?
Below are some of the basic steps to patent your mobile app idea that you should follow to do it efficiently:
Pick the type of patent application
Even as a whole mobile app idea or mobile app development, you can file patents for different parts of your idea. Fortunately, when it comes to mobile app patents, there are only two kinds- Utility and Design patents. Let’s discuss the patent applications in the context of mobile app ideas:
- Utility Patents- As discussed above, such patents are issued all around the world. It mainly focuses on safeguarding the different aspects of your invention like mechanics, technicalities, unique processes, and improvements. Other elements like algorithms, features, data structures, and hardware integrations can also be included.
- Design Patents- When it comes to design in mobile applications, UI/UX design and logo design are the elements that can be eligible for being issued a design patent to protect the visuals of an invention.
Do Proper Research
Make sure to conduct thorough research on other products in the market with patents similar to yours. This is because, during the filing process, people realize that someone already owns that idea. As a result, cross-verification goes a long way before deciding on an app idea to begin with.
Due to the uniqueness and originality of your app, it is important to research before applying for its authenticity. This can get a little time-consuming however, it is far better than filing for the wrong, unoriginal ideas.
Patent Lawyer Recruitment
Regardless of your desire, it is a necessity to hire a lawyer who can facilitate patenting your mobile app idea. Such a recruitment increases the chances of your mobile app being approved for its patent. Hence, make sure to hire one who has decent experience in software patenting. Ensure that they understand what needs to be done to make your mobile app qualified enough for the patent.
Not only that, a legal lawyer can also leverage your budget for the mobile app patent. This could make things much easier and more convenient since you would have professional guidance instructing whether you should be thrifty or extravagant in certain areas. So make sure to discuss all of this and any additional information with your lawyer before taking any further steps.
Before filing for a patent, make sure you have all the necessary documents along with all the data you require for the development process. You can also create a model of your app to track the semantics of its progress. This will also allow your lawyer to get a basic idea of how your app works. The authenticity of the evidence of your mobile app’s functionality will determine the approval rate for its patent.
Apply for Provisional/Non-provisional Patent
Once the documents are in order, make sure to apply for either a provisional or a non-provisional patent application. The decision is yours to make which one to choose based on your mobile application and patent.
Submit your final patent applications
The final and last step in the process of acquiring a patent is to submit your final applications. Once you have gone through all the steps it is now time to submit your patent application to the court and get the approval from the patent and trademark office. This entire process is quite complicated and requires too much paperwork. However, to lock in your idea and make it exclusively your own, it is important to set along on this journey of patents and trademarks.
Benefits of Patenting Your Mobile App Idea
The advantages of patenting your mobile app can be critical to the success of it. Some of these advantages are listed below:
The patent for an app grants the developer exclusive rights for making, using, and selling the app for a specific time duration which can reach up to 20 years after the filing of the patent.
Infringement performed by the competitors of your business will have no impact when it comes to harming your app idea and plagiarizing it with the help of a patent. The patent holder can issue legal action against the plagiarizer who uses or sells the app without any exclusive permission.
The marketability and visibility of the app increase via a patent. It can attract investors and partners easily. This is because it provides a competitive edge to the app which attracts investors and potential partners in the process.
Patenting an app can be a source of high income for your business in multiple ways. Some of these ways include selling the patent, licensing fees, and using the app to channel the cash inflow.
An app patent is a long-term investment that offers returns in the long run. It not only offers protection to your app but also increases the market value of your app over the years.
An app with a patent can exponentially increase the visibility and credibility of a brand. This is because it differentiates the app from its other counterparts/competitors in the market which in return, increases the customer support for the app.
How to check if your app has already been patented or not?
Now that you understand the basics of a patent along with its eligibility criteria and benefits, it is time to understand how unique your mobile app needs to be for it to obtain a patent. The research you need to do to figure that out is as follows:
Analyzing Patent Database
There is a whole database of patents out there somewhere on the internet. All you need to do is find the websites that host these databases and you are good to go. These databases hold the necessary information about the different patents issued to different kinds of mobile app ideas. Some of these websites that are famous for holding such patent information are:
- Google Patents
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
- European Patent Office (EPO)
- United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
This is the place where you need to explain your mobile app idea down to the last detail while utilizing the proper keyword. Your search prompt can contain elements such as specific functions, features, and technologies that can explain your app perfectly.
Classifications and Categories
The availability of this feature in every patent search directory is not guaranteed. However, if available, this can facilitate your search efforts a lot and aid you in spotting the search results that you are eager to encounter.
This feature in many directories such as USPTO, is mentioned as a Default Operator. It includes words such as AND, NOT, NEAR, WITH, OR, ADJ, and SAME to filter your search results.
Once you get the search results, you can peruse the granted dates of patents given to the different inventions around the world. This will grant you access to the information about patents with pending approvals.
Getting approval for your patent registration is certainly not an easy task to accomplish or approve. However, suppose you truly believe your app idea is revolutionary and that it will change lives for the better due to its unique capabilities and features. In that case, the arduous journey of getting a patent becomes all the more exciting. Regardless of the complexity of the process, it is much better than managing the stolen apps that violate your business’ vision and integrity or face a patent breach lawsuit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. How much time does it take to patent an idea for an app?
The time of patenting your app idea depends on multiple factors. Some of these are the uniqueness of your mobile app, documentation authenticity, patent attorney hired, and many other factors.
2. Do alternative methods exist besides patent approval to own your mobile app idea?
Yes, such methods do exist. Some of these approaches include copyrights and trademarks. However, such alternatives will not nearly have the same impact as a patent might provide you.
3. Is it important to keep my app idea a secret?
Even though collaborating with other people is necessary, it is of utmost importance you keep your app idea a secret. To do that, sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) while explaining your idea to others, and make sure to be extra careful while disclosing your idea to others.
4. Can I patent an app idea before it is completely developed?
A patent for your app idea can be filed at any stage of your app development process ranging from a concept to a fully developed app. However, the success of the patent depends on the details available about the app. Hence, make sure to balance innovation and clarity equally.