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The Real Question for Startups – To Patent or Not to Patent Your App Idea

By zyran217 | February  14,  2018 | 0 Comments


Have you got an amazing app idea that you believe people will love? Great!

Are you now thinking of patenting your idea? Well…think again!

When you invent a new idea, the first thing that comes to mind is protecting the idea before someone steals it, right? Patenting enters!

But does it make sense to invest thousands of dollars in securing a patent when you require the same amount to brush up your idea? It’s true that a patent is a valuable tool. However, we believe it’s a costly, lengthy, and a complex process. And, we don’t suggest spending all your energy, money, and efforts on the patent process when there are many critical app-related things to ponder.  

The patent is not your number-one ticket to success!

Look at the following concerns associated with getting a patent for your app:

Ideas Are Not Patentable

While we mentioned “app ideas,” you can’t simply get your idea patented. You need to implement it into a fully-functioning app, which can be explained and used. Patent office evaluates the app to check if it satisfies their criteria.

Moreover, patent law is too complicated for everyone to understand. You can’t navigate through the process without a patent attorney, which comes at a huge cost.

Patents are Expensive

On average, a good patent attorney charges between $300 and $500 per hour. This means a single app patent will cost you thousands of dollars.

With such enormous costs attached to patents, you may think it’s too important for your business. But, in reality, it’s just a piece of the startup puzzle.  

Patents Are Risky

A patent search alone costs hundreds of non-refundable dollars. Moreover, the search doesn’t guarantee results in your favor.

Even if you have a good chance of the patent being granted, expensive problems may arise later. The patent office may declare your idea so obvious and not patentable. You can object it, but the process costs even more money.  

Thus, you’d end up spending lots of money without tangible benefits in return.

Patent Limits Your Ideas

You have to describe your app in great detail before the patent office.

Now just imagine: Right after filing the patent, you realize that your app requires a small change that can improve it drastically. The bad news is you can’t make changes once the patent is made public.

However, startups should constantly seek improvements in their innovations. But, patents prevent you from significant advantages that startups possess.

Our suggestion is if you’re a startup, with a wonderful app idea, you should skip the patent process, for now. You may DO IT LATER! Undoubtedly, the patent is important, we believe it should not be your first business move, especially if you’re an infancy-stage startup.

Now, the good news! You can protect your app ‘ideal’ legally and cost-effectively.

Confidentiality agreements and trade secret protection work in a similar manner as expensive patent registration does. Every party involved in the innovation signs agreements, which obligates them to assign all business-related intellectual properties (IP) to the startup. You can extend your IP protection to include vendors, consultants, designers, and customers.

What’s next? When should you patent your app? What are the right time and the right procedure?

Evaluate your app idea as a business opportunity.

We suggest you should start with understanding your app, target market and competition as best as you can. Do solid market research and gather encouraging comments regarding your innovation from your friends and family. Give attention to your app development and discover its scope in the real-world marketplace.  

What is Patent, exactly?

A patent is an exclusive right granted by the government to inventors for a limited period. During this period, no other inventor can make, use or sell the patented product without the permission of the inventor. A patent can be bought, sold and licensed.

Is A Mobile App Patentable?

YES!  Mobile apps are treated like software by patent authority. Software patents protect methods, systems, and functions, like editing functions, translation methods, GUI features, and more, within your app. A mobile app offers a method of interaction via mobile devices. Thus, mobile apps are potentially patented as utility patents.

The best time to patent your app

Despite the challenges mentioned above of the patent process, there are circumstances in which it makes sense to apply for patent protection on your mobile app:

    • The lifespan of the app is expected to exceed three years.
    • Technology is of broad interest and application.
    • There is a scope for competitors to use your idea or its variation in their own apps.
    • Or only patent a particular innovative function within your app.

Conclusion

Our point is not to say that don’t get your app patented. But, if you’re a startup and have limited time and money, applying for patent protection is not a wise decision. We suggest focusing on building a solid app and attaining a product-market fit before patenting it.

Disclaimer – We advise everyone to get their own legal advice as each venture is different. We just love developing apps and base the above findings from our client’s experience. Ask around, The App Developers Sydney community is very active and helpful.