Can you patent an app?

Can I patent an app? Yes. But, that’s not really the question you should be asking.

Should I patent my app? Yes. But, that’s also not the correct question.

Why should I patent an app? Now, that’s the question!

Let me explain:

You can’t patent an app “concept”. Generally, it’s the new “step” in the “method” that can be patented. Not only must your “step” be new worldwide; the step must also be “new” when viewed from a higher level. For instance:

  • if you’re directing your software at “middle-aged, overweight men”, your users are “persons”;
  • if you’re asking “health data” from a user, you are collecting “data”;
  • if you’re “interrogating a Home Affairs database of personal data”, you are “interrogating a database” of information; and
  • if you’re generating an activity report with calorie usage, you are generating a “report”.

Patent App

After stripping all the “colour” from your “steps”, if your combination of steps is new and not obvious, you can patent it … but then, you’ll likely get an enforceable patent in about 4.5 years! In the meantime, anyone can copy your app. So, should you still get a patent? Yes. For protection? No. Then why?

  • FACEBOOK acquired 7,500 patents … to convince Nasdaq investors there was a barrier to entry. The consequent lower discount rate increased its share price on listing.
  • UBER‘s patent merely prevents competitors from confirming a ride with the map “concurrent” on the screen … but for 9 long years, the pending patent kept competitors guessing what Uber would ultimately patent.
  • WAZE maintained a wholly invalid patent “pending” for 6 years … to pressurise Google into buying the company (… and thereafter immediately abandoning the patent).
  • GUITAR HERO patented a feature not even included in the game … but everyone just assumed that linking an instrument to a game was patented.
  • INSTAGRAM patented one method (of many, many methods) to blur a portion of a photo … but at least they could claim “Patent Pending”.
  • SHAZAM and SOUNDHOUND each patented a very unique method to recognise songs … a method so unique that no-one would think of, never mind wish to copy it … but the pending patent deterred competitors for long enough to monopolise the market.

Not one of these most valuable app patents was filed for “protection”! They were filed for: deterrence, marketing, “breathing space”, strategic reasons, … for the “Patent Pending” stamp.

You too can stamp your app “Patent Pending”. It’s easy and inexpensive. Simply upload your software specification (describing your new step) and screen shots / wire frames (optional) to PatentMyApp. You’ll receive a Patent Pending Number within a day. Then stamp your app “Patent Pending” worldwide for 12 months. The cost? only $99.

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