How to Patent an App Idea: 5 Steps Guide

Do you have an amazing mobile app idea, but you are not sure how to protect it? Patenting your app idea is the right way to protect your intellectual property and give you a competitive advantage in the market.

However, patenting an app idea can also be a complex process. In this blog post, you learn the steps of patenting an app idea and the challenges faced during the process.

As a leading mobile app development services provider, we know the metrics that help to get an app patent approved, based on that, we have also written tips that help you succeed in the patent process.

Let’s start learning about how to patent an app idea.

Follow These 5 Core Steps to Patent Your App Idea

In the following section, we have described five core steps in detail about patenting app ideas. To prevent competitors from copying your mobile app idea, you need to have your mobile app patent. Once you patent your app idea, competitors won’t be able to steal your app idea easily.

  1. Determine Whether Your App Idea is Patentable

    Determining if your app idea is patentable is the crucial first move in the patent process. The Canadian patent law requires an invention to meet three main criteria: you should have a unique app idea or your mobile app idea should be new, useful, and not obvious to a skilled person in that particular field.

    Failing in any of these criteria could result in your patent application being denied. This is the reason it’s vital to assess your mobile app idea carefully before proceeding.

    How to Conduct Assessment

    To evaluate the newness of your mobile app idea, first conduct a comprehensive patent search using databases like the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or Google Patents. By doing this, you get to know if there are existing patents that closely resemble your app idea.

    For assessing usefulness, consult industry experts and maybe even conduct a small-scale survey or study. At this stage, your goal is to know if your app solves an existing problem or fulfills a need. Your app must offer real benefits to potential users and have a practical application, not just an interesting concept.

    Finally, consider the non-obviousness of your idea. For that, review academic papers, existing technologies, and market trends. Your app must offer a unique solution that wouldn’t be obvious to someone with expertise in the app’s field.

    Understanding these elements in-depth will equip you better to proceed with the patenting process. In addition, you need to refine your mobile app idea to meet the defined criteria, which helps to save your time and resources.

  2. Conducting a patent search is an indispensable step in the software patenting process. With the patent search process, you ensure no infringement on someone else’s patented idea. Not only can infringement lead to legal consequences, but it can also waste your time and resources on an unpatentable idea.

    How You Can Perform Patent Search

    To conduct a thorough patent search, you need to use numerous resources. Start with databases like Google Patents, the Canadian Patent Database or the USPTO’s system. Don’t just search with keywords; use classification codes relevant to your industry for a more refined search.

    By searching mobile app patents, you could be able to identify patents that are similar but might not contain the exact wording you initially thought of.

    Look for patents that have expired or are soon to expire. These can serve as a base for improvement, which means adding new features/functionality that make your app unique. But be cautious; slightly tweaking an existing patent won’t make your idea new.

    After you collect a list of existing patents, examine each one carefully. Compare each app’s features, benefits, and application areas to your idea.

    If the patent search process seems complex and tedious, consider hiring a patent attorney or consultant. A patent app consultant provides expert advice that helps navigate the entire landscape of patent law.

    By performing a detailed patent search, you protect your efforts and go ahead with a successful app patent application. This is a step you simply cannot afford to skip.

  3. File a Patent Application

    During your mobile app development process, consider filling out a provisional application which is also known as a utility patent. A provision application is a cost-effective way to secure a “patent pending” status. Crucially, it gives you a priority date and a competitive edge under the “first to file” system in Canada.

    Let’s start with the first, which is a provisional application.

    Provisional Application

    During your mobile app development process, consider filling out a provisional application which is also known as a utility patent. A provision application is a cost-effective way to secure a “patent pending” status. Crucially, it gives you a priority date, and a competitive edge under the “first to file” system in the U.S.

    By following a provisional application, here are the two benefits you get.

    • Offers a 12-month buffer to improve your app or assess market viability.
    • Less expensive than a non-provisional application.

    Non-provisional Application

    For a fully developed app, opt for non-provisional patent applications. Filing non-provisional applications refers to an official request for patent protection. When you want to file a non-provisional patent application, take care of the following two points.

    • Provide a detailed description, claims, abstract, and supporting visuals.
    • Perform an official examination without skipping any steps in the provisional applications.

    Here are the three tips to consider when you are filling both types of patent applications.

    • Clearly define what makes your app unique.
    • Add diagrams or flowcharts can simplify complex features, aiding comprehension.
    • A patent attorney’s guidance can streamline mobile apps and prevent common pitfalls.
  4. Respond to Office Actions

    Office actions refer to important communication channels between you and the patent office. Patent officers are the gatekeepers who pinpoint any issues that need clarification. Ignoring a response can risk your patent application.

    Office actions can vary in complexity. Authorities might ask for clarification on your invention’s features or question its uniqueness. There are chances of raising legal issues that need to be addressed for your application to proceed.

    Here are the five points to consider when you respond to the office for further action on pending patent apps.

    • Understand the request: Office actions can be technical and laden with legal jargon. Read it carefully, consult experts if necessary, and understand what’s being asked.
    • Timeliness: Each office action comes with a deadline, typically 1-6 months. Missing it can lead to application abandonment.
    • Consult a patent lawyer: Given the legal complexities, having a patent attorney guide you can be crucial. A patent consultant crafts a robust response that addresses all concerns.
    • Amendments and arguments: The response may require you to amend claims or argue against the examiner’s findings. Be precise and stick to the facts.
    • Documentation: Maintain a record of all communications with the patent office. This can be invaluable in the event of disputes or future legal actions.

    By giving due attention to office actions and responding in a timely and accurate manner, you significantly improve the likelihood of your patent getting approved.

  5. Pay Maintenance Fees

    Maintaining the status of your patent isn’t a one-time effort; it’s ongoing. To keep your patent alive and enforceable, you will have to pay maintenance fees at regular intervals. Missing a payment can mean losing patent protection. Let’s now understand the fee structure in brief.

    The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a tiered fee schedule. Fees are initially due 3.5 years after the grant date and then recur every 3.5 years. Importantly, each subsequent fee is higher than the last, often to account for inflation and other factors.

    • Use USPTO’s Online Services: The USPTO offers online portals for fee payment, which makes the entire process easy and quick for everyone.
    • Record-keeping: Always keep a receipt or some form of confirmation once you’ve made a payment. It can serve as proof in any dispute.
    • Consult financial advisors: To handle the financial aspect efficiently, you may consult with financial advisors experienced in intellectual property.

    Strategies for Fee Payment

    • Set multiple reminders leading up to the due date.
    • Plan and budget for patenting an app well in advance.

    Timely payment of maintenance fees ensures to have exclusive rights to your patented app idea. By planning for these payments, you can focus on leveraging your patent for business success without lapsing rights.

What are the Challenges Faced When Patenting an App Idea?

Here are the core challenges that are faced while patenting mobile app ideas.

  1. Technical Specificity of Your Mobile App Idea

    When applying for a patent, describe your app’s technical features properly. If you give too much detail, it might limit the scope of your patent. You even need to take care of not providing too little information, and your patent may not get approved.

  2. Frequent Changes in the Software Laws

    Patent laws change often, especially for software. If an intellectual property law changes after you have filed but before approval, your application might need revising. This makes staying updated crucial.

  3. Document Everything About Your Mobile App Idea

    Keep a record of all developments, communications, and versions of your app. You never know what might be useful later in the stage of patent processing.

  4. Review Your Entire Patent Application

    Your application will be carefully examined by experts at the Patent Office. They look at legal and technical aspects. If you don’t meet the described criteria, your application may get denied.

  5. Determining the Scope of Claims

    This part of the application tells what features you want to patent. Getting this wrong can be costly. If it’s too narrow, you limit your protection; too broad, it might not get approved.

  6. Provisional to Non-provisional Transition

    Filing utility patents buys you time to improve your app. But you have only one year to turn it into a full application. This can be stressful and could affect your app’s quality.

  7. App Patent Cost Fluctuation

    Parenting is not inexpensive. The cost varies depending on the stage you’re at. In addition, you may need a lawyer, which adds up to the cost. And don’t forget about the maintenance fees you’ll need to pay later.

9. Tips to Consider When Filing a Patent for an App Idea

  1. Consult a Patent Attorney

    While it is not legally required to have a patent attorney help you with your patent application, it is highly recommended. Patent lawyers assist with the complete process of getting a patent. They make sure your application is complete and without errors.

    A patent lawyer helps you identify the core features of your app to patent and draft strong claims that will protect your invention.

    Even if it’s costly, a lawyer’s expertise can save you time and future legal hassles. The cost of hiring a patent attorney varies on the complexity of your app and the experience of the attorney.

    However, you need to understand that a patent can be a valuable asset and worth investing in the expertise of a patent attorney to help you get it right.

  2. Opt for a Provisional Patent First

    A provisional patent application is a less expensive and less complex alternative to a non-provisional patent application. So, by filing a provisional patent, you establish a priority date for your invention, which gives you 12 months to develop your app, before filing a non-provisional patent application.

    Following this methodical approach is helpful if you are not yet ready to disclose all of the details of your invention to the public or if you need more time to secure funding. The pricing of provisional is less compared to non-provisional and allows you 12 months to develop your app. Use this time to test the market and seek investment.

    The cost of filing a provisional patent application is significantly lower than the cost of filing a non-provisional patent application. Additionally, the provisional patent application process is less complex and requires less documentation.

  3. Provide Detailed and Specific Information

    When describing your app in the application, clarity is crucial. Cover all technical aspects without being overly complex.

    The patent application should provide a clear and concise description of your app, including its technical features and how it works. Be specific in your description, but you should also avoid using overly technical language. The patent examiner should be able to understand your app without having to read a detailed engineering manual.

  4. Include Visuals

    Diagrams, flowcharts, or wireframes can significantly help the patent examiner understand your app’s functionality.

    Visuals like diagrams, flowcharts, and wireframes help explain the technical implementation and features of your app to the consultant authority. Including visuals provides you with a strong advantage to clarify any ambiguities in your written description.

  5. Draft Claims Carefully

    The ‘claims’ section in the patent application is crucial. Make sure it is precise and leaves no room for misunderstanding.

    The claims section of the patent application is the most important part of the application. The claims define the scope of your patent protection. So, you need to draft the claims carefully to make sure that they are precise and unambiguous. Any ambiguity in the claims could allow others to copy your invention without infringing on your patent.

  6. Check for Global Patentability

    If you aim for a global market, make sure to explore patent options beyond the U.S. through the PCT system.

    If you are planning to market your app globally, you should consider filing for patents in other countries. One way to do this is through the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). The PCT allows you to file a single international patent application, which would be converted into national patent applications in individual countries.

  7. Prepare for Patent Fees

    Be aware of not just application fees but also potential costs for revisions, legal advice, and maintenance fees for keeping the patent active.

    The cost of filing a patent application is not the only cost associated with obtaining a patent. You may also need to pay for legal advice, revisions to your patent mobile application, and maintenance fees to keep your patent active.

  8. Update Your Patent

    As your app grows, so should your patent. You can file for additional patents to cover new features and improvements.

    Once you have received a patent, it is important to keep it up to date as your app grows. You can file for additional patents to cover new features to your app. By updating your patent, you ensure that your patent protection remains relevant and enforceable.

  9. Leverage Your Network

    Reach out to your network for recommendations and insights on the process of patenting an app idea. The patent process can be complex and challenging. Talking to someone who has been through the process before could be helpful. Reach out to your network for insights and recommendations. There may be people in your network who can offer you valuable advice or connect you with a qualified patent attorney.

If you still have doubts regarding patenting an app idea, check the following FAQ section.

FAQ About Patenting an App Idea

  1. Why is it important to patent your app idea?

    For 20 years, a patent grants you the only authority to produce, use, and sell your innovation. This means that no one else can copy your app idea without your permission.

    To give you a competitive advantage in the market. A patent can provide you leverage in licensing agreements as well as help you draw in investors and partners.

  2. What are the eligibility norms to qualify for a patent?

    For patent eligibility, your mobile app invention must meet the following criteria.

    • The idea has to be completely new and not publicly disclosed.
    • Your invention should offer a significant advancement over existing technologies or methods.
    • The idea needs to have practical use or benefit.
    • You must give a thorough description of the innovation so knowledgeable developers in the subject can convert your concept into an application.
  3. How much does it cost to patent an app idea?

    To patent an app idea, the cost could range from $5,000 to $15,000 or even more. The initial patent searches could cost between $1,000 to $3,000. The filing fees with the patent office may range from $300 to $700. Legal assistance and attorney fees can vary from $5,000 to $10,000. Additionally, there are maintenance fees over the life of the patent.

  4. How much time does it take to patent an app idea?

    The time to get an app idea patent ranges from 2 to 3 years depending on the multiple factors. Initially, you need to spend 1 to 3 months on a patent search to confirm your idea’s uniqueness. Following that, preparing a thorough application may take several weeks.

    Finally, the longest part is the examination phase. The patent office could take between 1 to 3 years to thoroughly review your application, request any necessary clarifications, and ultimately make a decision on the patent grant.

  5. When do I need to patent my app idea?

    Early filing for a mobile app patent offers key benefits. You establish your claim to the idea, protect it from imitation, and create opportunities for licensing.

Patent Your Mobile App Idea With the Right Approach

In this blog, you have learned about the necessary steps for patenting an app idea. Starting from determining patentability to paying regular maintenance fees, everything we have covered. The whole process is lengthy and tedious. But, if followed properly, it becomes easy to patent your mobile application app idea.

However, if you have queries related to mobile app development, contact us. We are a leading mobile app development company, having experience in building 300+ custom mobile-based solutions. Let’s discuss your requirements and get your project development started.

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Rakesh Patel

Written by

Rakesh Patel is the Founder and CEO of Space-O Technologies (Canada). He has 28 years of IT experience in business strategies, operations & information technology. He has expertise in various aspects of business like project planning, sales, and marketing, and has successfully defined flawless business models for the clients. A techie by mind and a writer at heart, he has authored two books – Enterprise Mobility: Strategy & Solutions and A Guide To Open311

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