There’s nothing more exciting than having an idea for an invention! This sentiment is especially true in the fast-paced field of technology. While it may not be the first item on your to-do list, obtaining protection for your intellectual property (IP) is crucial. Patents for software-related inventions can be challenging to navigate, especially for someone new to the patenting process. Here, we’ll explore how inventors can obtain patents for mobile apps.
Can you obtain patents for mobile apps?
You can absolutely obtain patents for mobile apps. However, it’s essential to evaluate your application’s patent eligibility before embarking on the journey to IP protection. Patents can be costly and time-consuming. That statement is particularly true if you haven’t taken the proper steps to support your invention.
Even after obtaining a patent, you’ll need to keep up with maintenance fees and deadlines. For these reasons, it’s always a good idea to seek the guidance of an experienced IP expert.
When should you apply for a mobile app patent?
The best time to seek patents for mobile apps is dependent on a few factors. For example, someone that needs to attract investors as soon as possible should also apply for patent protection as soon as possible. Inventions that fall into a highly competitive market space may also require immediate action to protect the idea.
As a general rule of thumb, you can apply for a patent as soon as you’ve built a foundational understanding of the details surrounding your mobile app—like how it works, how it’ll be coded, and the value of its utility. Knowing what you want your app to do isn’t quite enough. You also need to know how you plan to achieve those results.
Provisional Patent Applications for Mobile Apps
Understandably, it takes time to develop a new application. Many app developers opt to file for a provisional patent application in the meantime. These types of patents can protect your idea for up to a year while you finalize the details. It’s essential to note that provisional applications still require some level of certainty regarding the app’s development and usage. It’s best to compile illustrations, diagrams, and detailed descriptions of the app’s workflow to support your claims.
4 Steps to Obtaining Patents for Mobile Apps
Remember that the patenting process may differ slightly depending on the needs of your particular IP. Other than individual requirements, the process for obtaining patents for mobile apps is largely the same as any other IP. You’ll need to meet the criteria set forth by the USPTO, perform a prior art search, file the proper paperwork, and follow up on any office correspondences. In the following sections, we’ll break down each step of the recommended process.
Step One: Evaluate Your App’s Patent Eligibility.
To determine what IP can be patented, you’ll need to refer to 35 U.S.C. 101. This is one of the first actions an inventor must take to obtain a patent. 35 U.S.C. 101 defines what is and isn’t patent-eligible subject matter. It states that your invention must be a process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter. There are exceptions to this rule, such as natural phenomena.
For inventions like mobile apps, you’ll want to consult with an experienced patent attorney as you make your decision. Once you’ve established eligibility, you’ll need to meet three more patent requirements:
- Unless you’re solely seeking a design patent, your invention must be proven purposeful.
- The concept of your invention must be new. If the invention is a novel idea born from an existing invention, it must be far enough removed from the original product to be considered new. For example, the way laptops eventually formed from desktop computers.
- Non-obviousness. For your invention to be patent-eligible, it must not be something anyone with an average skill set in a relevant industry could create.
Step Two: Document the Application to the Best of Your Ability.
As previously mentioned, the USPTO will require you to prove your invention’s feasibility and eligibility. But there’s another reason you should thoroughly document the development of your mobile application—your attorney. You don’t need to provide your chosen IP expert with the code you’ll use to create your app, but several other elements could be helpful:
- The workflow. Outline the functionalities of your application and how you plan to make those ideas a reality. Consider creating a prototype to showcase these features and processes.
- The applications of your application. Your mobile app may have value in several different industries. Explore each potential market opportunity to extend the scope of your patent protection.
Providing your attorney with a detailed overview of your invention can help them determine the best way to obtain comprehensive coverage.
Step Three: Enlist a Patent Expert or Attorney
The best way to secure your invention against unintended infringement or USPTO claim denial is to enlist a patent expert or attorney. The patenting timeline is long, and many complexities are involved with the legal process. An expert can help you strategize your claims and ensure your invention is adequately protected from misuse and infringement.
Step Four: Patent Maintenance
Obtaining a patent might seem like the obvious final step. Unfortunately, your work doesn’t end there. You’ll need to continuously monitor your invention for infringement, keep up with maintenance fees, and renew your patent when it nears its expiration. If you’ve retained a patent attorney, they can help you keep track of the necessary deadlines and fees.
Author Bio: J.D. Houvener is the founder and Patent Attorney of Bold Patents Law Firm, a trusted patent law firm. He has 10 years of experience in the industry and focuses on helping inventors gain access to world-class patent services to protect their visionary ideas and improve the world.