Where to Start with Your App Development, and How to Set Yourself Apart!

by J.D. Houvener on Jul. 30, 2015

Intellectual Property Patent Industry Specialties  Science, Technology & Internet 

Summary: This article is the second in a series on software applications which are usually phone/tablet based and goes over recent court decisions and trends in the market.

With the growing number of smart devices and smart device applications, any App developer might ponder how to set his/her application apart from the other 3+ million on the market. There were 45,000+ software patents issued last year in 2014, ranging from patent classes 700 to 719. While this number is staggering, there are at least three times as many software patent applications currently pending before the USPTO, due to the recent Alice decision from Summer, 2014.  Provided that these are statistics for applications that successfully became U.S. software patents in 2014, and the fact that the USPTO approved an average of 55% of all applications filed in the same year, at least 81,000 software applications were filed with the USPTO in 2014.

As intimidating as these numbers can be, working closely with a patent attorney can not only streamline the App development process, but also ensure whether or not your ideas will survive in the vast market of smart device applications.

Having your patent attorney conduct a patentability search for your App is usually recommended, and will provide you with a professional opinion on whether there is a path forward for your App’s development.   A good patent attorney will be on the lookout for three qualifying attributes: Novelty, Inventive-Step, and Patentable Subject Matter. These three things are not only for the attorney to search for, but also for you, the inventor to consider even before receiving a professional opinion. Novel, inventive step, and patentable subject matter are just other terms that dictate if the App is:

  1. Unique or new relative to all other prior inventions or publications.
  2. Non-obvious, meaning that any non-inventor could not have naturally derived the invention through normal problem-solving processes given the prior art at the time of filing.
  3. Something that is legally patentable e.g., an app that produces new function can generally be patented, while the new mathematical formulas produced, although new and useful, cannot be. 

Your patent attorney and the USPTO will also determine if your new, non-obvious, and patent-eligible invention has utility, or is useful. In the case of certain smart device applications, such as games, usefulness is in the eye of the beholder. It should be made known that meeting all of this criteria does not guarantee that your App will be met with success or positive reception. Also, just as important, the USPTO will be looking to make sure your invention has enabled a person of ordinary skill in the art to be able to make and use the invention after simply reading the patent application. Meeting the criteria simply denotes if your App has its own place among the thousands of other U.S. software patents.

To spark any individuals looking to invent new smart device applications, keep an eye out for Apple’s Force Touch Technology. Patented by the USPTO back in January, 2015, Apple has developed a computer track pad and a display screen that responds to pressure sensitivity rather than clicks and taps (No. 8,633,916). Most recently, this technology debuted with the release of the Apple Watch in March 2015. Now, what this implies is that very soon, Apps will be able to utilize the function of pressure sensitivity in its use. A kitchen measuring scale application for your personal smart device is in the near future, and it is made possible due to this technology from Apple.

To take it a step further, Apple also filed for Application Number 14/059693 in April. This will add to Apple’s existing Force Touch Technology. Users will not but limited to the track pad or display screen responding to touch and pressure, but also provide feedback through temperature and vibrations to provide a simulated experience for the user. It may be possible to slide your finger across metal in one moment, and wood the next.

With newly developing hardware technologies, so are the possibilities for App development. With Apple’s new tech, the window of opportunity to invent a new and exciting App is wide open for all inventors. Be the first to go BOLD among the 1.4 million existing apps in Apple’s App Store.

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