Author Topic: Questions on Patents and Developing an App  (Read 2337 times)

drtownhouse

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Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« on: December 08, 2015, 09:51:55 PM »
Hello - I have several questions that pertain to app development and patents. Recently I developed an idea for app. Unfortunately, I searched the patent website and found that the same fundamental idea was published in a patent earlier this year. I think the situation is sort of like this: you have the idea for a dating app with the swipe feature but then learn of a new, not so popular app called Tinder and the developers have patented the fundamental features (e.g., the swiping for partners bit). Anyway, the patented idea has been converted into an app that doesn't seem to be doing very well (from my standpoint, the name is goofy and the marketing may be subpar).

I'm just wondering what my options are at this point. I believe in the idea and think I could market it well. I have specific ideas for how revenue would be generated (revenue is not covered in the patent...not sure that it normally would be). I should also mention I have no tech skills and would need a partner if developing the app from scratch (I could only share my vision, specify what the app needs to be able to do, and implement the marketing/revenue approach).

I'd really appreciate any feedback on the following questions:

a) Assuming the Tinder situation above, where the basic premise and most important features are already patented, would it be unlikely that I'd still be able to get a patent by making certain tweaks?

b) Assuming I had to license, is there a way to license by promising some percentage of profits down the line, rather than by paying upfront (upfront might be too expensive now)? If I license, would I still have to develop the app, or could I use their software with my own marketing/revenue strategy?

c) Is it possible to move forward without either patenting or licensing?

Thank you.

arebelspy

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2015, 01:03:15 AM »
There are different types of patents.

Is it a design patent?

Regarding your question a, you need to go grab a patenting for dummies book (not literally that one, but a basic beginners book that won't have too complex legalese, but get you the basics) from your local library and start reading.

Regarding b and c, everything's negotiable, but I personally wouldn't be starting a business that was going to owe significant monies out of the gate I couldn't afford, or purposefully be violating patents.

How is your idea that close to theirs?  Have you considered just buying them out?  Also, have you considered that it's not that good or profitable of an idea?
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drtownhouse

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2015, 01:32:54 PM »
There are different types of patents.

Is it a design patent?

Regarding your question a, you need to go grab a patenting for dummies book (not literally that one, but a basic beginners book that won't have too complex legalese, but get you the basics) from your local library and start reading.

Regarding b and c, everything's negotiable, but I personally wouldn't be starting a business that was going to owe significant monies out of the gate I couldn't afford, or purposefully be violating patents.

How is your idea that close to theirs?  Have you considered just buying them out?  Also, have you considered that it's not that good or profitable of an idea?

Since it's for an app that purports to offer a new way to do something, I reckon it would be a utility patent. I thought an agreement where I license based on a promise to pay a percentage of profits down the line was a good way to get started without entry costs. If I fail, the other company wins. If I win, the other company still wins, in that they get a cut.

The idea is frustratingly close. It's frustrating because I looked around and found several companies trying to do something similar, but significantly different (and in my opinion not as cool). Then I found the patent for my idea was published so recently.

I think it's a good idea, and in my mind it wouldn't be difficult to get thousands of people interested in a fairly short time period (assuming the message reached them and they had the option to download the app). Being inexperienced in business, with limited funds and no tech skills, I am reluctant to move forward.

Your common sense suggestion to read up on patents makes sense. It would be nice to have a trusted and capable app developer as well.

arebelspy

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2015, 02:09:02 PM »
Patents generally take years to publish. Even if it was approved recently, what date did they apply for it?

(Not that either is particularly relevant, unless you're hoping to hold it invalid via prior art, so you can just ignore the patent.)
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druth

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2015, 02:38:51 PM »
If you are looking to read up I recommend "patents demystified".  Very well laid out book that describes the process in relatively lay terms.

Hard to say but making it sufficiently different may be a good route, but without knowing what you are trying to do I can't know if that's possible.

ulrichw

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2015, 05:18:07 PM »
I have some experience with software patents and my basic suggestion is to just work around the patent.

It's very unlikely that they're able to patent something as basic as a swipe to do something.

The patent is likely built upon a combination of a number of things - i.e., a system which sells widgets, which operates on a phone, or a tablet, which uses a swipe to let the user to do X. If you change anything in the chain, your solution doesn't conflict with the patent. e.g., instead of using the technology in a system which sells widgets, simply dispense a sales token the user needs to redeem for a widget.

Another strategy is to simply ignore the patents (better to be ignorant in this case - i.e., don't even look for the patents - or at least make sure your tech team doesn't know what's in the patent). By the time you're big enough to catch the patent-holder's attention, you'll have the resources to either:
a. License the patent
b. Fight the patent
c. Change your solution to not infringe on the patent

The way the patent system works in the US, the patent isn't "real" until it has been tested in court anyway. Passing the PTO's process is just the first step - many patents get thrown out when they're first tested, from what I've heard.

To answer your final question:
Is it possible to move forward without either patenting or licensing?

Yes, it certainly is, and that is what I would recommend. Your main protection is in more traditional stuff - the insights that you have in reaching your market - putting the features together in an elegant way that matches users' needs/desires - the brand you establish.

I believe that people overestimate the value of technology (and thus patents) in the whole equation - sure, that's a part of it, but it's only one part of the whole that needs to come together to make a successful product.

Patents are usually a factor for larger companies - so if you're looking to be acquired, having patents can help your valuation. In reality, my understanding is they're mostly used as threats - i.e., because I have 200 patents in this area, you're not going to go after me with your 150 patents.

Coming at it from where you are (no tech team, just an idea), I wouldn't even be worrying about this - you have much bigger problems to solve before patents should be anywhere on your priority list.

DeltaBond

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2015, 06:30:06 PM »
Back when I did the whole app thing, anytime I did a search for one particular type of app, about 20 apps for the same thing came up, or more!  I would be very surprised if you can't throw yours in the mix without worrying too much about patents.

G-dog

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2015, 07:29:35 PM »
I am a patent agent - PM me.
We can email or set op up a time to talk over the phone.
Glad you did a search first!

drtownhouse

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #8 on: December 10, 2015, 10:10:51 AM »
arebelspy - the patent was filed last summer and published early 2015.

I appreciate all of the advice - it would be great to move forward without worrying about the patent side yet.

arebelspy

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Re: Questions on Patents and Developing an App
« Reply #9 on: December 10, 2015, 01:20:03 PM »
That was his pretend example.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with two kids.
If you want to know more about me, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
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