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It’s always exciting to create new things like a new app and bring your ideas to life. However, knowing that your app idea may be taken advantage of can get in the way of your dream. Don’t let this feeling take over you and check out this guide on how to protect and patent your app idea. If you are looking for answers to the question “How do I get my idea patented” and wonder about the steps to get an app idea patented, you will find helpful tips in the article below.
Before we go any further, you may wonder if the app idea can be patented at all. It’s absolutely possible and below we’ll discuss all whys, how-tos, and steps to get an app idea patented.
What does an app idea patent mean?
An app idea patent represents a right exercised by an individual or company to have their ideas protected against stealing in the form of copycats. In other words, it is the protection of your intellectual property rights as an app owner. The World Intellectual Property Organization has a special provision regarding a mobile app patent. This patent is an innovation, working as a solution to a specific problem. If any other individual or company uses your original idea, they would need your consent.
This way, you can patent the solution or a process for an app, which is purposed to complete a certain action. Having a patent for your app idea allows you to block the app’s operation, striving to copycat your original concept and elements of your app.
Protection of an app idea is rather common nowadays. App development can take months, which might keep you in the dark for the time being, and make you wonder if the same concept will be put into action by your rivals. To prevent your idea and the fruits of your labor from stealing, you need to make sure it’s genuinely original and doesn’t repeat previously invented ideas.
As app developers, we are familiar with the patent process’s nuances and pitfalls.
Patenting the trademark of your app is a common strategy to protect the intellectual property related to your app. Often, unscrupulous competitors would use a similar or confusingly similar trademark for their apps to mislead potential customers and let them download the app they didn’t intend to download. You can prevent it by protecting the use of your trademark, which may include the following: the app’s name, logo, mascot, slogan, color combination, and even sound.
What rights can you enjoy with an app idea patent?
First, the app copyright verifies your idea as unique and original. During the development process, more people are going to be involved in the work to bring your concept to life. This way, you make sure to stand up to your business idea in the beginning.
Then, any copycat attempt will result in paying a penalty charge and compensation paid to you as an app idea owner. You also safeguard your work in case an opposite situation occurs, in which it is claimed that your idea is not original and follows someone else’s invention.
Finally, you’re no longer worried that someone else will release the same or similar concept to the market.
What is an app patent, exactly?
An app cannot be patented as a whole, i.e., you can’t point to its icon on Google Play or AppStore market and claim it fully falls under your patent.
The app idea is an invention. It is also a solution to an existing issue. In this case, the patent is the form of intellectual property that will stop others from non-consensual use of your invention.
While you cannot patent software as such, you can protect its elements and functionality.
Essentially, issuing a patent for your app means that the trademark and/or functionality of an app are protected.
The app code copyright is a separate process.
As a rule, the patent is exercised based on national law. In other words, there is a territorial limit to the patents. There is no global patent as such. Of course, there is a possibility to maintain your intellectual property rights in multiple countries.
Another limitation of patents is the expiration time. To keep your protection valid, it’s necessary to pay a regular fee usually charged annually by the respective authority.
What are the eligibility criteria?
1) Make sure your idea is truly unique
Check if a similar app idea is already present on the list. Use a national patent database or a global search system like Espacenet. Next, you should look up the federal register. For example, in the Netherlands, it will be the Dutch patent register. In the United States, the agency in charge is the Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Make sure a search in the system of the Cooperative Patent Classification. This database contains both existing and pending patents. Additionally, feel free to check out the Catchword Index of the World Intellectual Property Organizations. One of the universal global sources to check for existing patents are Patentscope and Espacenet.
The patent legislation in India stipulates it that your invention should not be obvious. It means that solution offered by the app’s functionality should not be a minor adjustment of a similar solution and undertakes a genuinely new approach.
CNIPA (The China National Intellectual Property Administration) deals with patents and coordinates issues related to intellectual property.
If you haven’t found anything close to your idea, feel free to continue with the registration of your intellectual property.
2) Your app idea is patent-eligible
In short, this qualification entails several requirements for your app idea: being genuinely new and unique (described above), being an innovation,
3) This idea was not published before
This idea should not be published on the web before, especially on publicly available resources, such as YouTube, the register of patent applications, and other sources.
4) The app idea must be useful
Your content must be considered useful. It’s also valid for entertainment content. First of all, it means that your app must work. Then, your application must provide a specific explanation of why you need to protect it as intellectual property.
The app elements that you can patent as an app idea:
– User interface and its graphic parts;
– Interaction between devices and server;
– Programming code;
– The authentication system and identity management;
– Database creation and management;
– The mechanism ensuring data privacy;
– Transactions and mobile payments;
– The way content is displayed to users;
This list is not exhaustive. The more objects you’ll be able to protect with a patent, the more reliable it will be.
What are the steps to patent your app?
The procedure varies depending on where you run your app business. UK, Canada, Australia, India, and the USA have their own system for patenting a mobile app.
1) You are advised to submit a provisional application in the USA. Before you start discussing things with investors, seek the consultation of the patent attorney. The patent is issued to someone who submits an application first rather than to someone who invented the idea first. That is why it makes sense to file a provisional application before you decide on moving on with a formal patent claim. Below you will find the list of items that you need to submit as part of your provisional application:
- the name and residence details of all inventors;
- the invention’s title;
- registration details and name of an attorney in charge;
- name and registration number of attorney or agent and docket number (if applicable);
- mention of the U.S. agency that has a property interest in this app idea;
- description of the invention, as well as the description of your app’s functionality
- drawings of your app;
- Entity Status Form;
- explanation of why your app is a novelty.
After the approval has been received, it will be valid for 1 year and grant you a patent-pending status. During this period, you can develop your app as an MPV (Minimum Viable Product). While your application is being reviewed, you can also file for patents abroad. The provisional patent application fee varies according to the type of your entity.
2) To apply for a full-scale patent in the USPTO, you need to prepare a set of documents and get ready to pay patent fees. As a rule, the following set of documents is expected from applicants:
- Specification, explaining your app’s specifics. It consists of the background, summary, and description;
- Claims – the essential part of your application. List the aspects of your app (functionality, algorithms) that you would like to patent;
- Drawings to support your claims. Usually, these are visual representations of the interface or other elements.
- The information disclosure statement;
Next to this, the patent commission will review if the processes in your app produce a specific and tangible result and whether similar functions have been previously patented. The cost of a non-provisional application varies depending on the period of the patent’s validity.
Alternatives to mobile app patent
Considering the relatively high cost of the patent and the long time of reviewal process, you may turn to alternative solutions.
– Apply for the registration of the trademark. It will protect your brand logo and advertising slogan against copycatting them. As a rule, it takes a few months to review your application and issue a license.
– Signing an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) with contractors and employees. This way, you ensure that the information about your product will not leak. Otherwise, the lawsuit for breach of NDA will be initiated.
– Signing a Non-Compete Agreement with employees will not allow for sharing information about your development with your competitors.
Tips to consider before obtaining an app patent:
1. Don’t be in a rush to share the screenshots of your app interface or pieces of code before you a patent license is issued. This way you’ll be able to protect yourself against stealing your groundwork
2. Secure yourself against litigations with the team members who contributed to the creation of the app. Contractual agreements must contain relevant provisions. Don’t forget to record the fact of their authorship in the agreements and settle royalties to avoid a suitcase being filed against you.
3. When you order development from external contractors, make sure to conclude a commissioning agreement, as well as Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). This way, you can avoid the disclosure of the development results.
Now that you’re aware of the app idea patent procedure, it’s up to you to decide on acquiring the patent for your innovation. While legal consultation is not an area of our competence, app development is. Feel free to ask us any questions about building your dream software product!