The number of smartphone users has been increasing steadily in India. The popularity of mobile applications are now on par with web content or may be much more. Right from paying utility bills to purchasing groceries, clothes, movie tickets, banking, apps are today one of the most essential need.
If you create an innovative, life-changing mobile application it can definitely be patented to prevent infringement. The number of patents granted for mobile apps and related technologies are in quite a good number as per data available on the Intellectual Property website.
A patent for any invention, including mobile application patents in India, need to fulfil the few basic criteria, which are:
1. Novelty analysis:The invention must be novel; it should be new. In order to check if the invention is new, one has to verify that there are no previous patents on an invention similar to the particular invention. A prior art search or a patent search will confirm this. As this task involves a lot of skill, it is best to seek the help of a licensed patent attorney.
2. The invention should not have been anticipated, i.e published anywhere before or available in some other public forum of display or use.
3. Obviousness analysis:Inventive step is a crucial step, which means there has to be an element of innovation in your invention. Mobile application patents in India cannot be for an obvious invention. For example, an individual wants to patent a mobile app for an e-book reader with a yellow highlighting facility. But as this already exists, the invention tries to do that just with a minor addition that the colour of the highlighter could be changed. Then chances are there that once the patent application has been filed, although it will pass the novelty test, the examiner will object by saying that the invention is too obvious.
4. Needs to have utility:The invention must have some features of being useful even if it may not seem very applicable at the current point of time. The real use of the invention may lie somewhere which is yet to come in the technology scene, so although the invention’s utility is foreseeable, it may not have much use today. This is acceptable so long as the applicant can or anyone can envisage even remotely the applicability in some other forms.
The above criteria are the basic requirement, apart from that, the invention needs to satisfy a few more tests to pass the examination hurdle. The Patents Act, 1970 has a list citing what must not be taken as inventions. As per this Act, you need to structure your patent for a mobile application so that, it does not look like a computer program. A mathematical algorithm to a layman’s eyes.
Softwares, per se, are not patentable. Mobile applications similarly should-not be patentable. This tricky job might need the help of a patent agent. However, specific software products that have a useful practical application are patentable, like software used in devices like pacemakers. For mobile application patents in India, you need to draft the specification of your ‘App’, carefully. The wording of the specification is crucial in getting you the patent.
You might need professional help while drafting this, as it might be very tricky job to word it such that the maximum novelty, non-obviousness and utility can be highlighted. Drafting of the specification for your mobile application patents in India would require you to disclose your invention. Although you need not to disclose the nitty-gritty of your invention, it is always advisable not to state it in a broad way so that it becomes too abstract.
There might be a scenario that your invention needs the applicability of a pre-existing invention, in that case you might be in the infringement zone. So keep alert when the previous patent search is done to check if you might need to obtain licenses. This might put economic stress on your invention, and your product may no longer be cost effective. Or else try to devise ways so that your invention uses the same result without infringing the previous patents. After you have clearly earmarked your invention’s applicability, do a small market enquiry or survey as to whether your patent has some worth or is there an existing problem which you have solved through this invention, or if you have somehow touched on a long felt need.