Mobile applications (or “mobile apps”), such as those sold in Apple’s App Store or Google’s Google Play, have become an important part of the smart phone market. While it seems everyone has a great idea for a new mobile app, the question many people ask is: “can I get a patent for my mobile app?”.
Like computer software, mobile apps may contain features that are patentable. While the mere idea for a mobile app is not patentable in Canada, the implementation of that idea into a mobile app may contain features that are proper subject matter for a patent. For example, the patentable features of a mobile app may lie in how the mobile app is implemented, rather than what the mobile app actually does.
In Canada, a patent application for a mobile app cannot be directed to a scheme, plan or set of rules for performing an operation or achieving a result. In addition, the patent application must not be directed towards a disembodied idea or something that lacks a method of practical application.
To satisfy the most recent Canadian patent office requirements for patentable subject matter, it is important that the invention is described and claimed such that the mobile device or the processor of the mobile device running the mobile app is essential to the invention. To be essential, it must be shown that the mobile device or the processor of the mobile device cannot be varied or substituted without making a difference in the way the invention works.
While mobile apps may contain features that are patentable, several factors should be considered when deciding whether or not to seek a patent for your mobile app. One factor to consider is time. Since the patent process is relatively slow compared to the mobile app world, it is important to consider the longevity of use of your mobile app. For example, in Canada it may take 5 or more years until your patent application is granted. Another factor to consider is cost. Although there is a lot of money to be made in the mobile app world, for example, as reported by Apple, mobile app developers were paid out a total of $15 billion on App Store sales in 2013, since the patent process is relatively expensive compared to the revenue generated by the majority of mobile apps, it may not make business sense to invest in a patent. Thus, if you are working on developing a mobile app, you should contact a patent agent to obtain advice on whether or not a patent for your mobile app is plausible and worth pursuing.