Is it possible to patent an app?

von Dr. Meyer-Dulheuer & Partners LLP

Apps have become a very important factor in our everydays life. But how is the legal situation for developers of modern applications? Is it possible to patent an app in Germany or in Europe? And if yes what does it cost?

Apps, that means application programs for smartphones, tablets, watches and other devices, are vital parts of our daily routine. Solely for the most known mobile system softwares iOS and Android are currently over three million apps availabe.

For nearly every circumstances exists an appropriate application. It’s no surprise that the developers of new creative apps are highly interested in protecting their innovations with a patent application against imitators. But how is the legal position concerning in this matter? In the following post we deal with the patentability of apps in Germany and Europe.

What is a patent?

A patent is a commercial property right for an invention. In order to get a patent, an application has to be handed in at the German Patent and Trademark Office (GPTO). While the patent arises through an official prosecution history, it is a private civil right in its impacts. Actually the patent is comparable to property. It gives the patent owner the right to prohibit any other person the commercial use of the invention.

Indeed only for technical inventions patents are granted. Therefore the question arises whether an app is rated among such technical innovations. Beyond doubt new, original apps arise consistently. Nevertheless amongst experts it is controversial whether and to what extent software programs, in which apps are ranked, can be patented.

Is it possible to patent apps?

According to the German and European patent right, software “as such” is basically not patentable. This means that it is not possible to patent a certain application program in total ...

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