Mobile Apps Patents

How to protect Mobile Apps in South Africa

Traditional protection of Mobile Apps
The source code, on-screen layout and graphics that form part of a mobile application is protected by Copyright, but what about the underlying principle of operation of the mobile application? How can you protect your mobile application in terms of the South African Patents Act?

Mobile Apps Patent Protection

The South African Patents Act excludes a “program for a computer”, from the definition of an invention.  However, there has not been any litigation in South Africa dealing with the exclusion of software from patentability. So we have no clear indication of the interpretation that the courts would use. This means that our courts may be influenced by rulings from other countries, such as the United Kingdom.  The UK Office has accepted patents and claims to computer programs since 1999. There is, however, a provision that the application must produce a technical effect when run on a computer (or mobile device) to render it patentable.

As with all other inventions, mobile apps must be new, inventive and have a use or application in trade, industry or agriculture. To overcome objections as to whether the mobile application involves an inventive step, it may be helpful to determine what the technical problem is which has been solved through use of the program. The presence of such a technical contribution is usually sufficient to establish that the claimed subject-matter has a technical character and therefore is indeed a patentable invention.

Filing of Mobile Apps patents
A mobile application can often be described as a technical method of performing a technical act. When we describe a mobile application in a patent specification, we often describe the technical method, rather than the software as such. Therefore, it is our view that mobile applications can be protected by means of a patent application if the specification is drafted by a patent attorney. Furthermore, the South African Patent Office is a non-examining patent office. This means that patent applications are not subject to examination for inventiveness, but merely on the formalities. It is therefore unlikely that the Registrar of Patents will reject your patent application because it contains claims to a “program for a computer”. However, this does not mean that the patent granted for your invention is going to be valid, but it may be worthwhile to file the application anyway, rather than taking the risk of exploiting your invention without a patent.
(How much does it cost to Patent a mobile app?)

The first step in protecting your mobile application is to file a South African provisional patent application followed by patent applications in foreign jurisdictions such as the USA, UK, European Union members and other countries of interest… This will allow you to secure your rights to your invention in foreign jurisdictions.

Patent Quote

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More information regarding Patents

Patents – In simple terms, a South African patent may be granted for an invention that is: New, Inventive and Useful. If your invention meets these three requirements, generally, subject to certain exclusions detailed below…

Biotech Patents – Research and development in the life sciences is extremely costly and time-consuming. The pharmaceutical industry provides a good example of the time-scales and funding one needs in order to bring…

International Patent Protection – It is important to note that patents are territorial rights – a patent granted in South Africa can be enforced in South Africa only. However, you may, within 12 months…

Software Patents – Historically, software has been protected primarily through the provisions in the South African Copyright Act. Examples of subject matter for copyright protection of computer programs and mobile apps are…

Requirements for Patent Application – We need a full, detailed technical description of the invention in order to draft a patent specification. If you have a prototype or drawings of your invention…

Plant and Animal Sciences – According to the patent laws of several countries, one cannot obtain biotechnological patent protection for plant or animal varieties, or essentially biological processes for the production of plants or animals…

Patent Search – It is very important for applicants to do a patent search for similar inventions before applying for protection. A Patent Search will indicate whether your idea or inventions has been patented before. Although novelty can never be determined…

Patent Requirements – Although novelty can never be determined conclusively, an indication of the novelty of your invention may be found by conducting patent and literature searches. South Africa has a so-called…

Patent Costs – A novelty search is conducted prior to filing a Provisional Patent Application to identify potentially novel and/or inventive aspects of an invention in light of what already exists (i.e. the prior art)…

Patent Exclusions –  Anything which consists of a discovery; a scientific theory; a mathematical method; a literary; dramatic, musical or artistic work; or any aesthetic creation; a scheme, rule, or method for performing a mental act…

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