How to Patent an App Idea in 4 Steps

5 min read

How to patent an app idea? It’s always exciting to create new things, like a new app, and bring your ideas to life. However, knowing your app idea may be exploited can hinder your dream. Don’t let this feeling take over you, and check out this guide on protecting and patenting your app idea.  If you are looking for answers to the question “How to patent an app idea” 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. It’s possible, and below, we’ll discuss all the 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 protects your intellectual property rights as an app owner. The World Intellectual Property Organization has a special provision regarding a mobile app patent but doesn’t instruct how to patent an app idea.

This patent is an innovation that solves a specific problem. If any other individual or company uses your original idea, they need your consent.

This way, you can patent the solution or a process for an app purposed to complete a particular 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 relatively standard 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 must ensure 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. You can prevent it by protecting your trademark, including 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. More people will be involved in the work during the development process to bring your concept to life. This way, you 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; you can’t point to its icon on Google Play or the AppStore market and claim it entirely 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 intellectual property that will stop others from non-consensual use of your invention.

While you cannot patent software, you can protect its elements and functionality.

Essentially, issuing a patent for your app means protecting an app’s trademark and functionality.

The app code copyright is a separate process.

Patents are usually exercised based on national law. In other words, there is a territorial limit to patents. There is no global patent as such. Of course, it is possible to maintain your intellectual property rights in multiple countries.

Another limitation of patents is their expiration time. To keep your protection valid, you must pay a regular fee, which is usually charged annually by the respective authority.

What are the eligibility criteria? Steps on how to patent an app idea

1) Make sure your idea is indeed 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 Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is the agency in charge.

Make sure to search the Cooperative Patent Classification system. This database contains both existing and pending patents.

Also, check out the Catchword Index of the World Intellectual Property Organizations. Patentscope and Espacenet are universal global sources for checking for existing patents.

The patent legislation in India stipulates that your invention should not be obvious. It means that the solution offered by the app’s functionality should not be a minor adjustment of a similar solution and undertake a genuinely new approach.

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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) and 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 valuable. It’s also valid for entertainment content. First of all, it means that your app must work. Then, your application must explain why you must 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;
– Music;
– Database creation and management;
– The mechanism ensuring data privacy;
– Architecture;
– Transactions and mobile payments;
– The way content is displayed to users;
– Algorithms;

This list is not exhaustive. The more objects you can 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. The UK, Canada, Australia, India, and the USA have their own systems for patenting mobile apps.

1) You are advised to submit a provisional application in the USA. Before discussing things with investors, seek consultation with the patent attorney.  The patent is issued to someone who applies first rather than someone who invented the idea first.

That is why filing a provisional application before proceeding with a formal patent claim makes sense. 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 receiving the approval, it will be valid for one year and grant you a patent-pending status. You can develop your app as an MPV  (Minimum Viable Product) during this period. 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 must prepare documents and be ready to pay patent fees. As a rule, the following collection 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.
  • Declaration;
  • 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.

image1 1 development

Alternatives to mobile app patent

Considering the relatively high cost of the patent and the long time required for the review process, you may turn to alternative solutions.

– Apply for the trademark registration. It will protect your brand logo and advertising slogan against copycatting them. Generally, reviewing your application and issuing a license takes a few months.

– Signing an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) with contractors and employees. This way, you ensure that information about your product will not leak. Otherwise, a lawsuit for breach of the NDA will be initiated.

– Signing a Non-Compete Agreement with employees will not allow 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 screenshots of your app interface or pieces of code before a patent license is issued. This way, you’ll be able to protect yourself against stealing your groundwork

2. Protect yourself against litigation with the team members who contributed to the app’s creation. Contractual agreements must contain relevant provisions. Remember to record their authorship in the agreements and settle royalties to avoid a lawsuit 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.

Bottom Line

Now that you know the app idea patent procedure, it’s up to you to acquire 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!

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