Should You Patent an App Idea?

Generally the first advice you'll hear about whether you should patent an app idea, is don't do it. People will tell you that to patent a mobile app is costly, timely and can use up necessary resources. In saying that though, the world's largest technology companies patent their apps as it is also the most robust kind of intellectual property protection within the app space.

Whether you decide to patent your app idea or not, here at Appifany we think it's useful to know how to do it successfully anyway. So, below is a comprehensive overview of how to patent a mobile app. Keep in mind though that it can be unnecessary and unwise to patent your mobile app idea if you're an early stage startup.

What is a Patent?

Before we go through how to patent your mobile app idea, let's discuss what a patent actually is. IP Australia defines a patent as a right that is granted for any device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful. A patent is a legally enforceable right to commercially exploit the invention for the life of the patent.

A patent is different to copyright as copyright provides protection for original works of authorship, whereas a patent protects symbols, slogans, designs, etc that identify a company, service or product. Or in other words, it is the protection of inventions and discoveries.

So, for a mobile app for example, the inventive solutions and processes which allow your app to function, would possibly be able to be patented. They are potentially patentable not as design patents, but rather utility patents.

There are two types of patents in Australia:

  • A standard patent, which gives long-term protection and control over an invention. It lasts for up to 20 years (or up to 25 years for pharmaceutical substances).

  • An innovation patent, which is a relatively quick and inexpensive way to protect an incremental advance on existing technology rather than a ground-breaking invention. Protection lasts for a maximum of eight years.

Whether your invention is better suited for a standard patent or an innovation patent is dependent on the nature of the advance made by your invention over what is already known in the same field of technology. There is no simple rule for determining which patent will better suit your invention.

How to Successfully Patent a Mobile App

We obviously can't guarantee that you application will be approved, however here's the list of specifications from IP Australia's website in order for a patent to be granted.