What separates a normal app idea from a unique app idea is your willingness to try new things and the efforts you put in for customizing the app for the audience. A novel application idea is your business cash cow. It is validated by the team of experts and ensures that you make a fortune out of it. The app idea should stick to your user’s head, and they should make the best use of it. But, it makes you feel paranoid when you get to know that the copycats steal your idea.
However, do you know that you can actually protect your disruptive mobile app idea and exclude others from copying it? Intellectual property law, namely trademark, patent, and copyright law, can be applied to mobile application ideas. You can get away with this miserable fate by filing a patent for your mobile application idea. You read it right. You can patent a mobile app idea even before you unfold it to your stakeholders and investors.
You may think, why is the need for filing a patent for an app idea? Well, the mobile space is flooded with mobile applications, and it is important to protect intellectual property like an app idea being executed by various other founders.
Let us give you some famous names of the companies and their founders who made a wise decision of patent filing to maintain their brand’s reputation.
1. Snap Inc:
Snapchat founders Reggie Brown, Evan Spiegel, and Bobby Murphy filed various patents for IP-based intrusion detection, machine-powered content curation, Augmented Reality, and more. They did not wish to compromise their reach to millions and billions of audiences using their apps for socializing.
2. Uber Technologies Inc:
Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp, founders of Uber Technologies, were inspired to build an Uber app after facing a real-life problem in Paris. They faced various challenges while booking a cab in Paris, and therefore, they decided to come up with on-tap services.
They faced low-traction from the audience and high-traction from local authority in San Francisco but decided to file a utility patent so that the app idea is protected from any infringement. The rest of their journey is history.
There are more stories to this list, but we will keep this short. The crux of the matter is when you are in the tech sector, and you have a validated mobile app idea, it is important to protect it from any foul play. By filing a patent, you can legally accuse if any third-party leverage your app idea and try their fortune.
In the next section, we will answer your basic queries related to the topic. To begin with,
What is a Patent?
A patent is a right granted by the government to the product owners for protecting their app idea against any illegal usage. Any other investors can not copy the idea, and if copied, you can legally take action against the infringement. You become the powerful owner of the patented app idea and exclude others from creating or distributing your app idea.
Apple filed a complaint against Microsoft back in 1994, stating that Microsoft copied its graphical user interface. However, Apple did not file a patent for the same, and hence Microsoft had a decision in its favor. You can now imagine the gravity of having a patent for your app idea.
There are two main types of patents that you can file for your mobile app idea:
1. Utility patent: Where you file patents for the new machine and processes.
2. Design patent: Where you file a patent for the unique design of the product.
However, there are various other aspects of a mobile app for which you can file a patent.
Security and authentication tasks;
Can you file a patent for a mobile application idea? If yes, what are the requirements to be eligible for patenting an app idea?
Yes, Mobile app ideas are patentable. You can cover various components and interactions under mobile app idea patents. However, the code of the application can not be covered under a patent.
Also, any public disclosure about the app idea or any prior patent should not be filed if you opt for patenting the mobile app idea. The idea should be purely confidential and satisfy all the patent eligibility criteria. It is not just the app idea that gets patented, but all the important details and documentation specific to the application idea goes with the same.
You need to remember a few key points before you initiate a patent for a mobile app idea.
It should not be an abstract idea but an invention:
Many startup stories state that their patent application is rejected because their app idea is abstract. Hence, the first criterion to be eligible for a patent application is it should be an investigation that ticks off the list. An invention that gives a solution to a real-life problem (as per the World Intellectual Property Organization).
It should be unique and new:
The mobile app idea should be novel and should not be submitted by anybody else previously. If it is done, then the patent application is rejected.
In Angelo Firenze words,
“Just because your software solves a problem doesn’t mean your patent application is assured. Your software solution needs to be new … [I]t needs to solve [an] existing problem in a way that other solutions do not … either with new, non-obvious technologies or by changing the process itself in unique new ways”.
It should be qualified and useful:
Your patent for an app idea will not be approved if it is not useful or solves a problem uniquely. Since you are the app idea owner, you need to explain how solid your app functioning is and how it can be differentiated from others.
In other words, the app idea should be non-obvious. As Richards Patent Law beautifully explains this non-obviousness as,
“An invention is patentably non-obvious when it is something more inventive than what would have been obvious to someone skilled in the relevant area of technology at the time the patent application is filed. A patent examiner can reject a patent application for being obvious if it is a combination of pre-existing inventions or is an obvious variation of one or more pre-existing inventions”.
Now, let us look at the cost of patenting a mobile app idea.
A patent application can be divided into two categories, Provisional patent, and non-provisional patent. And hence, if you ask what the cost to patent a mobile app idea is, we would say it depends. A provisional patent filing may cost you around $2000 to $5000. However, this patent application is durational. It is applicable for a year only. During this one year, you can check if your idea is suitable enough for a patent. You can also further conclude your non-provisional patent date the same as that of the provisional patent filing date.
Coming to the non-provisional patent filing, it will cost you around $10,000 to $15,000. The application will be received and analyzed by USPTO, which can take around one to three years. However, a non-conventional patent application should describe everything about the novel app idea, its specifications, and claims.
We would also like to mention some basic charges (while we are writing this) that you would have to pay during the patent application. Refer to this USPTO website for detailed info about the charges
Elementary filing fee: $70-280+
Patent search fee: $160-700
Patent Examination fee: $150-2300
3.5-year maintenance fee: $500-2000 (involves keeping a granted patent valid)
7.5-year maintenance fee: $900-3800
11.5-year maintenance fee: $1900-8000
How can you check if the app idea is already patented by others?
2021 is going to be highly tech-focused, and in this competition, you have to take care that your top mobile app idea is not copied by anybody else. But before you initiate a patent for an app idea, you need to check if somebody else has filed a similar one or not.
You can start your search by looking out for already existing and pending patents for mobile app ideas. You have complete access to the database offered by USPTO and run an advanced search to ensure the doubt. You need to check out every single detail available on the list of patents; otherwise, you may create a blunder.
Also, you can check the IPC Catchword Index that will have a step-by-step guide for doing an online search.
What is the right time to file a patent application?
Once you are done with all the brainstorming and hunting, then you can opt for patent application filing. Patent attorneys advise you to file a patent for a mobile app idea before discussing it with your investors & stakeholders.
It is better to appoint an attorney who would help you with all the legal proceedings.
When can you have a patent for your mobile app idea?
The process of filing a patent for a mobile application idea is a time-consuming process. It took six long years for Mark Zuckerberg to file a patent for Facebook. Hence the entire patent application process is an overwhelming one; you can expect it to last for around three to five years.
Having said above the benefits, there are some setbacks of patenting an app idea.
If you are a startup company, you would have to bear some upfront costs of around $25K for three to five years in total. This cost can put your profits into question. Also, the entire process, as mentioned above, might take several years for the app idea execution.
Along with this, your business goals might change as you evolve through the prototyping phase and design. Which further leads you to divert from your original application idea.
Patenting an app idea is not a cakewalk. The one who has filed it first will have the upper hand over the one who has invented it. Hence, keep it a secret affair if you have a novel idea to steal the market presence.
The patent application procedure is long and tedious, but it is definitely worth all your efforts if you are sure of your eccentric mobile app idea.
You can also connect with us for any further discussion about your project. We are an experienced mobile app development company having great expertise on board. Hope this blog solves the purpose.