Mobile app technology is a unique area of innovation because the sources of value that can be extracted from mobile apps can be so incredibly varied. There are mobile apps where the heart and soul of the app is the underlying innovative technology or use of proprietary algorithms that make the app function. When you have a valuable mobile app, it is important to protect the intellectual property rights that exist in the mobile app.
Many mobile apps are eligible for patent protection. Since the U.S. patenting system is a “first-to-file” system, inventors are strongly encouraged to file their patent applications as quickly as possible after making an invention. In the United States, a patent applicant has a choice when making their first patent application filing: they can choose to file a provisional patent application or they can choose to file a non-provisional patent application.
Provisional Patent Basics
A provisional patent application is a patent application filing that is used to establish a priority date against potential prior art and to establish a priority date from which subsequent U.S. and foreign patent application filings can be based. The priority date can be maintained for up to one year from the provisional application’s filing date. At the one year mark, the provisional application must be converted into a non-provisional application, or the priority filing date will be lost.
The provisional patent application option is one that many app developers choose to utilize because:
- The processes is less involved than filing a non-provisional patent application.
- Provisional patent applications are like a lite version of the patent application process, while the non-provisional patent application is like the full version of the patent application process.
- Provisional patent application filings are lower cost than filing a non-provisional patent application.
- Filing a provisional application buys developers time to work out any additional development issues in order to finalize the app before filing the full version, non-provisional patent application, which can be useful when developers are trying to enter a highly competitive segment of the mobile app market.
- Once the provisional application is filed, the developers can use the designation “patent pending,” which is useful in deterring copycats and competitors from stealing the protected app technology.
When To File A Provisional Application For Mobile App Technology
Mobile app developers should file a provisional patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office as soon as they have a concrete and tangible invention that they are able to describe, even if the app has not yet launched, or even if the app is not fully developed. While the provisional patent application is pending, a mobile app developer can make improvements to the design and functionality of the app. This allows a soon-to-be-launched mobile app to have patent-pending protection in place, even if the app may still need modifications, testing or debugging.