Patenting your idea should be the first thing on your priority list. Yes, it will require much of your precious time, but the patent process is worth giving your time for. You have to understand that the competition in every business field is getting tougher & tougher. And time plays a major part, especially in the app economy. Time to market is an important differentiator between high-revenue and average apps. If someone steals your original app idea and launches it before you do, their app will be the original, regardless of whether you came up first with it. So, just because you launched your app a little later than your nemesis, you will have to take a huge hit on the number of downloads and revenue your app generates. But how to patent an app?

If you have decided to patent your app idea, as you know that software cannot be patented, your brain will be bombarding another set of questions, some of which will be, How can you patent an idea? How much will it cost? What if some other person has already patented your mobile app idea?

These questions keep revolving in your head, but don’t worry. All your queries will be answered today.

Bonus Read: What is the Cost of Developing a Mobile Application?

Why Is Patenting Your App Idea Important?

Coming up with a brilliant app idea is rare as most of the apps coming out in the market are created on the essence of some already present app. So, if you develop a unique app idea, you should first patent it. Let’s understand what is the need to patent your app.

  • Protect your app idea from cloning before entering the market or after launch, and prevent unauthorized app downloads.
  • Avoid ugly patent infringement lawsuits and potentially wasted money by proactively safeguarding your intellectual property.
  • Filing for a patent establishes proof of being the first to sign it, granting you the luxury of being recognized as the rightful owner of the app.
  • If a powerful firm steals your app idea, it must pay for your intellectual property. If the case goes to court, the timeline established through the patent filing will serve as evidence confirming your rightful ownership of the invention.
 how to patent an app idea

Two Types of Patent Application

The mobile app developer cannot patent your app’s code, as the code falls within the realm of law governed by copyrights. But, The app falls under the category of “method” or “process,” which allows patenting with any machine, article of manufacture, and composition of matter. Copyright protection can be applied to titles, icons, and logos. Depending on what you are patenting and how, there are two different types of patents you can file.

Provisional Patent Application

A provisional patent application is a medium to establish a filing date for the app development. You may get a “Patent Pending” status by provisional patent for a year. Where you can further innovate, modify, research, and secure funds for your application. Provisional applications don’t need any formal declaration or oath. These are the non-provisional applications in the making. With the patent-pending status, you can easily deter competitors. 

If you have filed a patent before someone with a similar idea, you are in a winning situation.

Non-Provisional Patent Application

Non-Provisional Patent Application – A non-provisional patent application is a formal application for a patent and is examined by the patent office. Once a non-provisional patent is granted, it provides patent protection for the invention for a term of usually 20 years from the filing date. A non-provisional patent includes a detailed description of the invention, claims that define the scope of protection sought, drawings if necessary, and an oath or declaration from the inventor.

Non-provisional applications undergo a thorough examination process by the patent office, where the claims are reviewed to determine whether the invention meets the patentability criteria, including novelty, non-obviousness, and usefulness. If the application is approved, the inventor obtains exclusive rights to make, use, and sell the invention for the duration of the patent.

AspectProvisional Patent ApplicationNon-Provisional Patent Application
PurposePreliminary step to establish a filing date.Formal application for a patent subject to review.
Term“Patent pending” status for up to 12 months.Provides patent protection for 20 years.
ContentLess formal; no formal patent claims required.Detailed description, claims, drawings, and more.
Oath/DeclarationNot always required.Required from the inventor.
ExaminationNot examined by the patent office.Undergoes a thorough examination process.
Claim ScopeProvides a placeholder for a future non-provisional.Defines the scope of protection sought.
Patentability CriteriaNot subject to a detailed review initially.We reviewed for novelty, non-obviousness, and usefulness.
StatusDoes not result in the issuance of a patent.Results in the issuance of a patent if approved.
Key points for both provisional and non-provisional patent applications

Eligibility Criteria for a Mobile App to Be Patented

It is not that just because every brilliant app needs to be patented, it can be patented. Some things need to be taken into consideration. The first is ensuring that someone else has not already patented the same app. The USPTO (US Patent & Trademark Office) recommends everyone run a patent search before attempting to file a patent. Search every related keyword you can develop, especially the core ones that make the app work.

The USPTO ensures that your patent doesn’t violate other patents, but the work of the USPTO is just up to that. You can still be sued for patent infringement. And you cannot patent “an idea.” The person has to explain how the app is going to work briefly.

Some things that cannot be patented include mathematical formulas, laws of nature, any invention that violates the laws of physics, or anything that can easily be achieved with the human body alone.

Your app needs to come out as “novel, ” meaning it needs to differ from all the previous inventions of that field by at least one element. That difference should be able to have a consequential impact.

One of the major obstacles that the creator faces is making their invention appear as “non-obvious.” This turns out to be frustrating for the inventors because the examiner testing the patent would know everything about the field, and to surprise them with a “non-obvious” invention can be a tough ask.

Also Read: How To Select A Mobile App Development Company?

Another feature your invention needs to embody is being “useful.” This does not mean your app can be built on an entertainment basis; it needs to work, and you have explained it’s working, at least in theory. You need precise and detailed knowledge about how your app will work. Inventors cannot expect to claim ownership without knowing how their app will work.

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How do you check if your app idea is patented or eligible for a patent?

Start with patent search practice. Patent Search tells you whether your app already owns a patent.

Discovering that another app has already patented a similar concept under a different name can be disheartening, but knowing this is preferable to encountering a costly lawsuit for app infringement in the future. It is important to patent search, but USPTO’s transparency makes it easy, too. You have to log on to the USPTO website & use their ‘Full Text and Image Database’ to enter the right keywords and look out for all the filed patents.

Patent Database

  • Google Patents
  • World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO)
  • United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
  • European Patent Office (EPO)
 patent mobile application idea

If it turns out that your idea has already been patented in some other name, then you don’t have to feel down as yet. All you need to do is study that app closely and find out how to make your app different from that already patented app. You do not have to discard your idea completely; you can modify and innovate to make your app different from that patented app.

How to Patent Your App: Step-by-Step Guide

1. Find and Enlist with a Patent Attorney

The first thing to do when filing a patent request is to find the person who can increase your chances of being granted a patent. Connect with a software patent attorney to get a thorough understanding of the details and requirements of the patent process.

Filing for a patent is a complex process and does involve a lot of legalities. Hiring a professional will give you the extended support you need to go through the process. Finding the right person to get your application selected is a crucial step to make sure your app remains your idea.

Also Read: How To Select A Mobile App Development Company?

2. Identify the Patent Type 

The next in line is to identify the type of app patent you want to file for. Any mobile app takes the true picture after going through multiple stages of working on its looks and feel and what it offers. Depending on the same, you can decide on the type of patent you want. The most significant ones are: 

  • Utility Patent: It talks about the app’s idea, features, functions, and other related things. 
  • Design Patent: Here you have to focus on UI/UX, the app design, logo, and other visual elements of your application.

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3. Mobile App Invention Disclosure

When you decide to file for an app patent, you need to make sure it is feasible. For any legal process, you’d need tangible proof. The best idea is to present the document with the details of the development process and the major efforts behind the idea. Here you can be sure your app patent request is accepted as you have strong proof with an action plan to share. 

Also, documenting the complete process can help you comprehend the problems you may face and be ready with the solutions in case there is an issue.  Share specifications to avoid any troubles and confusions in the end.

The specification consists of:

Title: The title for the app needs to be very accurate plus descriptive, but most importantly, it needs to be brief.

Backdrop: Elaboration of the context of the invention that includes all related theories and prior inventions must be there at this point. Along with all this, the differentiation of your app from all the other apps has to be there.

Summary: Provide an overview of your app and explain how it will address any problems mentioned in the ‘backdrop’ section.

Description: the description of your app needs to be very thorough for your app to get a patent.

Mobile App Invention Disclosure

Claims: This is the most important and most contested part of the application. In this section, you must state which part of your app you claim legal ownership of. Claiming legal ownership over everything is impossible since some parts of the app will fall under someone else’s patent.

Drawings: If the visual interface is an important part of your app, then including figures and visual representations of your app would prove very handy. Take tips from already approved patents about the standard in your field.

4. Practice Patent Search

For sure you have worked hard on your app idea and want to further patent it. You should do a patent search before you file for an app patent. Check for the apps with similar ideas and functions and highlight in your application what makes you unique. Your patent attorney can decide on the uniqueness to avoid any infringement in the future.

5. Prepare the List of Documents Required

Another important part of the patent process is to make sure you have all your documents ready. To increase the chances of getting your patent approved, enlist all the documents before hand and submit the copies as and when required. 

  • Oath/Declaration
  • Specification
  • Entity Status Form
  • Information Disclosure Statement
  • Application Data Sheet (ADS)
  • Claims
  • (optional) Patent Cooperation Treaty (for International Filings)
  • Drawings
  • (optional) Application to Make Special
  • Fee Sheet
  • Cover Sheet

6. Choose Provision or Non-Provisional App Patent 

If you need some extra time to get your app ready before the launch, you can file for a provision patent. This would also give you the leverage of making a few modifications to your app before the application is approved and delivered. 

Non-provisional patent works well if you have a finished product and you want to make sure you get the patent approval as soon as possible.

**Important Points to Remember **

  • Don’t Skip Patent Officer’s Questions: Affirm you’re available for your patent officer’s questions so that there is no delay in the process of delivering your patent.
  • Pay Fees on Time: You have to annually pay a certain fee to continue the patent. If you skip to make payments there are chances it may collapse and you cannot claim any rights on your work. 

Total Cost to Patent an App

Building the application for yourself will incur a charge of $15k to $50k on average, and opting to collaborate with experienced lawyers for their services will require a payment of around $10,000. You can obtain an application form and file a handmade provisional patent application for just $65. In truth, proper legal channels cost between $5000 and $9000, excluding the subsequent addition of legal fees. 

Other than this a few more expenses include: 

  • Elementary filing fee: $70-280+
  • Patent search fee: $150-600
  • Patent Examination fee: $180-700
  • 3.5-year maintenance fee: $400-1600 (involves keeping a granted patent valid)
  • 7.5-year maintenance fee: $900-3600
  • 11.5-year maintenance fee: $1850-7000+

Investing in mobile app patents can help you stay protected from competitors and maintain your credibility in the market. To ensure you are earning great profits with your app idea, keeping a budget for patenting is a good idea.

What are the benefits of Patenting an App?

Exclusive Rights: For a predetermined amount of time (typically 20 years from the filing date), a patent gives the app creator the exclusive authority to create, utilize, and market the patented innovation. This exclusivity prevents unauthorized use or copying of the app by third parties.

Competitive Advantage in the Market: A patent can provide a competitive edge by indicating to rivals and possible investors that the app has cutting-edge and distinctive features. An app with a patent can draw customers and business partners, strengthening one’s standing in the market.

Monetary Value: A patented app may be worth money as a valuable asset. To make money, it might be sold or licensed. The patent can be sold outright, through partnerships, or licensing agreements to generate revenue.

A patent provides legal Protection: Patents provide a barrier against third parties trying to replicate or violate an application’s features or functionalities. The patent owner can file a lawsuit to prevent infringement and recover damages if someone else uses or replicates the app’s patented features.

Digital Asset Protection – Securing a patent for your mobile application safeguards both completed and in-progress digital assets. Additionally, patenting offers the added advantage of enabling you to seek damages, address grievances, and receive compensation in cases of imitation or infringement of your app idea.

The Conclusion

After reading this, you will be sure that patenting an app requires a lot of work, but if you have faith in your idea and believe it has the potential to become an invention, you should certainly patent your app. Yes, the process is a bit complicated, but it is way less painful than dealing with some clone apps stealing your business idea or facing a patent infringement lawsuit.

THE AUTHOR
Project Manager
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Dinesh Shilak, a tech enthusiast and dedicated writer, provides fresh insights into technology through his engaging blog posts. His keen interest in the latest advancements & passion for the field are evident in his writing.

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