Do you have a brilliant mobile app idea? Are you worried others might steal it from you and use it as their own?
Luckily, intellectual property law provides protection for your mobile app idea. Patent, trademark, and mobile app copyright or patent law can prevent other people from stealing your idea for an app.
Businesses should patent an app idea to prevent others from developing, using, and selling it. But how do you patent an app idea?
In this post, we’ll discuss what business owners need to know to safeguard their app ideas and the possibility of monetizing their mobile applications.
Can You Patent an Idea for an App?
Is it possible to patent my app?
While you can not patent an idea for an invention according to U.S. law, it is possible to patent the idea of a mobile application since it is part of the app’s various methods of interaction. The code of the app, of course, is not eligible for a patent because it falls under the copyrights category.
That said, the process or method of the mobile application can be eligible for a patent as it follows to perform a specific action. For instance, a certain application makes it possible for a mobile phone to function in a particular manner.
A unique app idea is a requirement for patent application
Moreover, before filing for an app patent, make sure your app idea is under a unique category. This means that your app idea must not align or be similar to another app.
An average user with similar skills and knowledge must not reproduce an exact copy of the same idea. Clock and calculator apps are some of the most common mobile app ideas.
Patenting a Mobile App Idea: What does it really mean?
An intellectual property law (IP), in this case, a patent — prevents others from using your mobile app idea without your consent. A patent provides you the assurance that other people won’t claim your app idea and use it as their own.
In the US, it is the USPTO or United States Patent and Trademark Office that officially issues the patents. In Canada, business owners can patent an app idea through the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
Why should you patent a mobile app idea?
Essentially, patenting a mobile app idea grants you an official patent. With it, you have the right to demand compensation from anyone who tries to break the existing patent law.
3 Reasons Why it’s Crucial to Patent Mobile App Ideas
- You can legally charge every copy of your introduced mobile app in the lineup.
- Other people can’t ruin your mobile app idea financially.
- A patent can prove that your mobile app idea is original and unique.
When to File a Patent for a Mobile App Idea?
According to the first-to-file rule, the first person who invented an app based on his or her idea is not granted the app patent. Interestingly, the first individual who files for the patent is the one who’s granted the patent.
For this reason, startups and established companies, with mobile app ideas, prefer to file for a provisional app prior to disclosing important app details to the public.
You may want to consult a software patent attorney if you want to apply for a patent. The patent attorney will advise you to patent an app idea prior to disclosing or discussing it with those who may want to invest in it.
How long does it take to patent a mobile app?
It will take 1 to 3 years to get a patent for an app idea. Generally, a patent application starts with the examination process and is broken down into different stages such as claims, specifications, drawings, and abstracts.
This type of patenting process may take anywhere from several months to years. During this period, the examiner will conduct patent searches to look for existing patents.
The outcome of this examination will lead to the issuing of an office action. A patent will be granted to the mobile app or reasons will be provided why the app is not eligible for a patent.
Has the patent for your app idea already been granted to another app?
You can easily check if the patent you’re applying for is already given to another party. Just visit the USPTO website and search the terms for all patents filed.
2 Types of Patent Applications
Provisional Patent Application
Many app development companies often choose the provisional patent application when they begin with the patent application process. This type of patent application is the most common type of patenting a mobile app idea.
With this type of patent application, you can file even without a declaration, formal patent claim, or any data disclosure statement.
Here are the provisional patent application benefits:
- It grants you to develop and refine your minimum viable product MVP within 12 months, in which your app will be in patent-pending status.
- You are allowed to use the term “patent pending” on your product.
- Provisional patent applications are less expensive to file than non-provisional patent applications.
- It allows you to file for an international patent application and claim priority within a 12-month period.
Non-provisional Patent Application
A non-provisional patent application can be filed even if you don’t have any app reference, which is already processed in the patent office.
This type of patent application must also come with complete specifications and claims. Moreover, a patent application that is non-provisional should contain information such as a written description of the invention.
Additionally, this patent application should have at least one claim, which legally defines the boundaries of the said mobile app invention.
How do I choose the right patent application process?
If you don’t know which patent application to choose, you can ask yourself these questions:
- How fast would you want the patent office to grant you the patent?
- How long would you want to delay patent examination costs?
A qualified patent attorney can help you find answers to the questions above. Patent attorneys can help determine if you should file for an app patent protection in the patent office or not.
Further, patent attorneys can assist you with the application process. Patent protection for your novel and non-obvious mobile app invention is vital for preventing others from stealing your app idea.
How to Know if Your Mobile App Idea is Eligible for a Patent
There are things to consider if your mobile app idea is patent-eligible or not. An app idea must be:
Generally, the sole purpose of patents is to protect inventions. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) grants patents to inventions that are described as solutions to any problem or issue.
We all know that app ideas are not physical objects. And so, the application process for such an app is one that’s classified as an invention. However, the process must provide a solution to a problem for it to be considered an invention.
New and unique
Solving a particular problem is not a guarantee for an app idea to become eligible for a patent. It also has to be new and unique. Simply put, a unique app idea must not have been previously disclosed in a public format such as:
- Pending patent applications
- Social media, etc.
Qualified as useful
Lastly, a patent-eligible app should qualify as a useful application. It doesn’t mean that your app idea can’t be under a classification like “entertaining” or anything like that.
Your mobile app should work, at least, in theory. This requirement often prevents people from patenting apps that are not useful as they should be.
And so, to claim ownership over your mobile app, you must come up with a concrete and detailed explanation such as how the app works, and so on.
How Much Does it Cost to Patent a Mobile App?
Generally, the app patent cost or the cost associated with mobile app patents often depends on the category.
Provisional app cost
App patent cost for provisional patents ranges between $2,000 to $5,000.
You can have your app developed and launch it once you have filed for a provisional application. Remember, provisional patents last a year. You can use this period to check the success of your mobile application.
Non-provisional app cost
Typically, the cost for a non-provisional application ranges between $10,000 to $15,000.
The USPTO will check your mobile app patent once you have filed a non-provisional application. The examination process for a non-provisional application can take around 1 to 3 years.
The examiner will conduct a comprehensive review of your patent. And then, checking for your app’s eligibility through a patent search process will follow.
Other basic fees you need to pay for patenting a mobile app
We have gathered some of the common fees you’ll need to pay when you want to patent a mobile app. But you can also visit the USPTO listing to see other app patent costs.
- Patent search fee: $150 to $600
- Patent examination fee: $180 to $700
- 3.5-year maintenance fee: $400 to $1,600
- 7.5-year maintenance fee: $900 to $3,600
- 11.5-year maintenance fee: $1,850 to $7,000
Legal fees for filing for app patents can range from $5,000 to $8,000. The legal fees for patenting extremely advanced applications can cost between $14,000 and $16,000.
What are the requirements for patenting a mobile app idea?
When you want to patent a mobile app idea, you should already know that it demands a lot of paperwork. In fact, the patent process can become more tedious over time. Each document requires verification before it can be finalized.
To make the patenting process a bit smoother for you, we made a list of the necessary documents for app patents.
- Entity Status Form
- Cover Sheet
- Fee Sheet
- Information Disclosure Statement
- Application Data Sheet (ADS)
- Patent Cooperation Treaty (for International Filings)
- Application to Make Special
How do I patent a mobile application?
1. Hire and consult with a patent attorney
You’ll need to hire an experienced software patent attorney so you can present a well-built, high-end patent. This will increase your chances of getting your patent application approved.
As you know that this is a legal process and could involve litigation, it is best to seek help from a professional rather than try to do it by yourself.
Remember, avoid going with the first patent lawyer you come across. You must always look for the best lawyer that’s well within your budget.
2. Disclosure for mobile app invention
For the court to issue a patent against your invention, tangible proof is often required. Always make sure to record the entire app development process.
Additionally, you can build a prototype of your app so you can present a breakdown of its flow. This will help your patent lawyer understand how your application works since it’s not code but the processes and functionalities of the app that get patented.
3. Conduct a deep search for similar patents
Many industry experts recommend hiring a patent attorney who can do worldwide searches for apps with processes and functionalities similar to yours. This way, you’ll avoid any unexpected violations against other companies.
Essentially, it’s a lot better to spend a few dollars to ensure your app has a higher chance of getting approved than having to start all over again.
4. File any of the 2 patent applications available
We have already discussed the types of patent applications for patenting a mobile app.
If you can’t decide which patent application to choose, you can try to find the answer to these 2 guide questions:
- How fast would you want the patent office to grant you the patent?
- How long would you want to delay patent examination costs?
If your requirements lead to question number 1, then the non-provisional app could be the right patent application for you. Otherwise, you can choose the provisional app as it is never examined.
5. Submit your patent application to the USPTO
Once you have successfully completed all the important steps for a patent application, your final step is to file it with the USPTO.
What are Alternatives to App Patents?
Patents stop copycats from making and selling your patent-approved invention. In comparison, a trademark protects logos, symbols, words, and phrases.
A trademark also protects other devices, which are sources that identify the originator’s goods and services. And thus, it prevents your competitors from using such devices.
Moreover, a trademark can be issued to your app’s logo to prevent competitors from copying it. And also prevent confusion among app users.
Patent or mobile app copyright is an age-old debate. While mobile app copyright is a bit similar to patent since they are both Intellectual Property Rights, they do have their differences.
Copyright is a collection of rights issued to the author or inventor of artistic, educational, literary, musical work, or even computer programs. It allows authors or inventors to publish or reproduce their work. They can also make derivatives regardless of whether it’s published or not.
Moreover, copyright safeguards not the idea itself but the expression of ideas. Copyright does not cover ideas, facts, methods, or systems of operation. For this reason, you can copyright your app’s logo but not the mobile application itself.
3. Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs)
NDAs are documents signed by you and another entity with whom you work on your app development projects. This entity can be your chosen mobile app development company.
Non-disclosure agreements bind other entities to keep your app ideas and other app details confidential. As a result, this will prevent third-party actors from using your app idea.
Can You Make Money with Your App Idea?
The short answer is, yes! You can join the list of top application software entrepreneurs who made a fortune with an app idea.
Dom&Tom has been in the business for 13 years now. We know for a fact that having a mobile application is one of the best businesses to be in these days.
We have witnessed many app development clients establish successful startups and businesses with their app ideas and get millions of dollars in funding.
We Can Help You Turn Your App Idea into a Reality
Now that you’ve gone through our guide to patenting your app idea, your next step is to partner with an experienced mobile, web, and app development agency.
If you have queries about app development or how to convert an idea into an app, get in touch with us. Being in the app development business, Dom&Tom has already built more than a thousand apps for more than 400 clients.
If you have a brilliant app idea, reach out to us by completing our form. One of our best strategists will get back to you shortly.