Nowadays mobile applications is an essential part of each person’s life, as we use them to communicate with friends, to relax, to have fun, and even for working purposes. The smartphone industry is developing rapidly, offering more and more interesting stuff almost every day. The market is really huge and competitive to some extent, so anyone can select an app to fit all the requirements and needs. Sometimes mobile applications presented by different developers have lots in common, which is actually a problem. So, many developers are eager to patent apps not to have their ideas stolen. Having developed a mobile application for iOS or for Android, a company can protect it from unfair competitors by obtaining a patent. Additionally, the mobile application is a strategic asset that can be highly profitable. Also, it’s possible to obtain income via transferring the rights of usage.
What is an App patent?
Obtaining a patent means excluding other people from copying, utilizing, or selling your intellectual property. As we know, the software can be a subject of protection, but you should also understand that it’s impossible to patent some aspects, including the code. Nevertheless, developers are allowed to protect methods or technical processes. An application is intellectual property, so it’s important in the extreme to ensure it won’t be stolen. So, can you patent an app just to feel secure? You have to! Via this, you get legal protection for a certain period (as a rule, for twenty years). There are several patent types, and the one you need for an application is a Utility one. In fact, this type is the most common one, being granted to new processes, machines, etc.
Differences between copyright and patent
Although these terms are used interchangeably sometimes, there are some differences you should be aware of if interested in protecting your intellectual property. So, let’s have a look at those:
- A patent is aimed at protecting your invention of being stolen or utilized by other people or organizations. Any usage of the invention (either machine or process) is prohibited, third parties are not allowed to use anything, as in this case they will be penalized.
- Copyright is usually used for works of art and various literary works. So all books, paintings, films, music, and so on can be protected via it. Copyright refers to the result, but not to the process itself.
So, these two have different rules of usage, so it’s essential to understand what is better to apply to your works.
Who can get a patent?
If you are interested in how to patent an app, you may also find it useful to know who can do it. The USPTO (US Patent and Trademark Office) has certain criteria the applicant is required to meet. First of all, your application will be checked for being published earlier. If they find some evidence of it, you may say goodbye to your dreams of patenting app ideas. Besides, the Office will also check if there is something in your app that was previously published. So, it’s better to be completely sure you understand what you are doing before applying. Also, if you have something worth humanity’s attention and eager to protect it, don’t procrastinate too long, as someone may have ideas similar to yours, so don’t wait for years to avoid such an unpleasant experience.
To protect or not – this is the question
Even if you are fully convinced that you wish to patent an app, it’s better to think twice, as in some cases it’s better not to do it. The application may not be eligible, so think everything over, as getting legal protection is impossible in this case, so it will be a total waste of time. Nevertheless, even if everything is good, the entire process may be rather expensive and time-consuming (it may take you from three to four years). Are you ready for it?
There are also some other aspects applicant often consider worth considering:
- Being granted already, you’ll have to pay the fee each year not to lose your rights
- Sometimes you’ll have to do some legal actions to protect your intellectual property, as the patent is not a guarantee that someone won’t try to steal it
Some people are sure that the game is not worth the candle. On the one hand, you will be legally protected. On the other, anyone can still use your work, steal it, slightly change, and present like a new one. So what’s the point of applying and waiting for years? Even huge corporations sometimes have to pay enormous sums of money because of borrowing other companies products’ features.
What to do to register the App
If you have already decided that a mobile app patent is just what the doctor ordered, think twice whether it’s a good move. You can also ask a professional (for instance, a lawyer) to help you to come up with the decision if it feels like an acid test of your knowledge and patience. Remember that solving some problems by means of your software doesn’t mean you have to protect it. There is a so-called novelty test, which means that your development should bring something new to people or present some technologies in a completely new way. Besides, it can be quite expensive to go through the process, especially if you feel a necessity to ask a specialist’s help. There are two types of applications: provisional and non-provisional. The first one is valid for a year, so the developer has the chance to finish his work. Speaking about non-provisional one, choosing it means that your work is all done, you are sure everything is good and your application is eligible.
If you have selected a provisional application, you’ll be obliged to provide a list of documents to show your app and its features. Those are:
- Documents that explain the entire process of the work of your app
- Several illustrations demonstrating its main peculiarities and functions
- A detailed description of how to utilize the app
The more details- the bigger your chances.
Research the market
Those looking for a phone app patent tend to overlook one more crucial aspect that can affect everything: research. People consider it boring and unnecessary, but a lack of knowledge of what is going on in the market can cause a disaster. The market is huge, so it’s easy in the extreme to skip something of great importance. Nevertheless, try your best to conduct careful research as you can run into a project similar to yours, thus avoiding wasting money and time trying to patent it. Besides, some organizations are holding their rights without showing their developments to the public, so mind it.
About the law
The main idea of the law is to help developers to protect their works from stealing. The inventor has legal rights to sell the invention but it should be done within a specific time limit. There are three types of patents under the USA law, so it’s essential to understand what you are looking for. Those are utility, design, and plant ones. People are always eager to protect all types of developments, and the USA law has several offers to do it, but it’s essential for you to meet the criteria, including novelty, usefulness, and non-obviousness.
So, it’s up to you what to do with your intellectual property. Like everything under the moon, protecting an app has its benefits and drawbacks, so think everything over, talk to professionals, and get the documents ready if decided to go for it.