Unfortunately, the answer is no, no there’s not. But maybe there should be! A portable, user-friendly app that lets you apply for a patent by throwing kamikaze birds at multiple choice questions to complete your application. The app would immediately rise to the top of the app charts, earn its maker millions and suck hours of productivity from the working day as people surreptitiously lob birds into the sky.
But wait, how can the app be protected from potential infringers? Patenting could be the solution, but a more nuanced investigation is needed. This article explores whether an app can be patented but more importantly, whether it should be.
Can an App be Patented?
It’s best to approach this question from a technical point of view. Under section 18 of the Patents Act 1990, an invention is patentable if it is novel, involves an inventive step and is useful.
If the software or coding behind an app is novel, involves a inventive step and is useful, then there is a possibility that the app may be patented.
Should an App be Patented?
Now that we have answered the preliminary question of whether it’s possible to patent an app, let’s move on to the more important question of whether an app actually should be patented.
Most app developers want to patent their apps to protect it from imitators. It’s a legitimate concern – no one wants to invest significant amounts of time and money to invent something great only to see it copied and sold for a cheaper rate elsewhere.
Long Term v Short-Term Profitability
To apply for a patent in Australia, costs range from between $3,000 and $12,000, depending on the type of patent and the complexity of the invention. It’s not an insignificant amount of money. Whether this is a good investment or not depends on whether an app has long-term profitability potential. If an app just capitalises on the short-term appeal of the ‘zeitgeist’ playing quick and dirty to make a mint, it may not be worthwhile to apply for a patent providing years of protection. Perhaps the money is better spent on a great marketing campaign, a better app developer and trademarking the app name.
However, if the app has long-term profitability prospects, then the significant initial investment cost may be worthwhile. You can best reach this decision through drafting a solid business plan outlining how and where you will make profits.
Risks and Enforcement Costs
Patenting an app carries with it risks and additional costs that you should first consider before deciding to apply for a patent. For instance, one small change to the content of a patent could place a potential infringer outside the reach of a potential action for patent infringement. Also, anyone applying for a patent will need to think about the costs to enforce their rights. Litigation is costly and time-consuming, and a person is not guaranteed to recoup their legal costs if they win their case.
In short, you should base your decision to patent on a sound business plan and a realistic assessment of whether the associated costs with patent applications are worthwhile. If you have any questions about your patent application, or require any advice on the necessary intellectual property protection for your invention, please get in touch! One of LegalVision’s experienced Patent Attorneys would be delighted to assist.