Patent Protection of Mobile [Smartphone] Applications – Android, Apple, Microsoft & Blackberry Apps

Mobile applications, which are commonly referred to as mobile apps, are generally available for download at various app stores. Commercially, selling mobile apps is a highly profitable business model as developers can offer apps to multiple markets.While analyzing the patentability of mobile applications, such apps have to be considered as software products, and then, corresponding patent eligibility and patentability can be determined by standard methods, such as, for example, conducting a patent prior art search to determine patentability and analyzing relevant search results. With a view to determine patent eligibility or patentability of mobile applications, it is advisable to consider them as software products and / or computer-implemented inventions. The standard criteria to determine patentability include determining novelty, non-obviousness (inventive step), and industrial application. Subsequently, while drafting a patent application for mobile application, software products and / or computer-implemented inventions, it is a statutory requirement to provide a detailed description of one or more embodiments of the invention that is sufficient to enable a non-inventive person skilled in the relevant field of technology to put it into operation. As a patent practitioner, it is crucial to ensure that while drafting patent application for computer-implemented inventions, patent claims are specifically defined and claims are not broad, which may lead to an assumption of claiming one or more abstract ideas, mathematical equations, laws of nature or mere discoveries. A most feasible patent strategy is to file a provisional patent application, usually known as provisional utility patent application in US, which will give a timeline of 12 months to file a non-provisional patent application (referred to as complete patent application under Indian laws). After the date of filing provisional patent application, the phrase “patent pending” can be used during product promotions. Generally, patent attorneys and patent law firms provide low cost fee schedule to draft and file a provisional patent application, primarily because drafting provisional patent application consumes quite less billable hours as compared to a non-provisional patent application. This is so because as per requirements of patent laws, non-provisional patent application is required to include a full fledged set of claims, formal figures, corresponding description, whereas a provisional patent can be filed as a general disclosure of invention that may or may not include full set of claims and formal figures. Accordingly, it is common to include snapshots, sketches etc. with the provisional patent application protecting mobile applications. Before deciding to file a patent for mobile application, it is advisable to consider various factors, such as, for example, but not limited to, budget and cost to file patent to protect a mobile application, patent eligibility of the invention, patentability of the software product, type of patent application to be filed, basics of utility patents, advantages of filing multiple provisional patent applications, and the like.

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