Mobile Device Applications and IP  

POSTED BY ipCG Team AT 2:00 P.M. SEPTEMBER 25, 2009

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It is clear now that mobile devices, like the Apple iPhone or RIM Blackberry, which can be loaded with user selected applications, represent a critical bridge in delivering the right content, to the right user, at the right time. Historically, as users of mobile devices, we have been subject to limited content that was selected and offered by our respective carriers. Now, with access to nearly a hundred thousand applications (in the case of the iPhone) we are able to personalize our mobile device to ideally suit our lifestyle and business needs, and can do so on-demand.

Like the devices themselves, the applications that run on them are continually improving in quality, sophistication, functionality, and usability. In addition, applications have emerged as a key marketing and sales tool and represent a new means for interfacing with a target audience by providing unique access to products or services. From a business perspective, whether the developer of the application is an individual, a small company, or a global conglomerate; the issue of protecting the value of your application for sustained competitive advantage must be considered.

The following are some questions that may assist in determining whether or not you should consider formal IP methodologies to protect your application:

  1. Do your business, marketing, and sales strategies recognize smart, mobile devices as a key medium for reaching your desired customer or client base?
  2. Do you typically utilize intellectual property (i.e. patents, publications, copyrights) to protect your products and technologies; or do you compete primarily on features and price?
  3. Does the mobile application provide a beneficial function for the user and/or does it rely on a set of complex "relationships" and inputs to make it viable?
    a. For instance, the considerations are much different for a new "clock" application as compared with one designed to tie into your inventory management system and make recommendations to customers based on specific requests through the user interface.
  4. Does the development of the application reveal or result in any new technologies that may represent an industry breakthrough or serve as a long term technology platform for you?
  5. Are mobile applications that are relevant to your business currently being developed by other entities, i.e. traditional competitors, new entrants, unknowns, etc.?
  6. Does your mobile application have potential as a licensable product? For instance, could it be re-branded and provide value to a set of industry participants?

If you answered "Yes" to one or several of the questions above, you may want to consider formal IP protection of your application. If you expect mobile applications will become an established channel of communication for your business, you should consider implementing a formal strategy to guide the development process, from generation ideas to prototype creation to selection of best mode of IP protection.

The development and distribution of mobile applications represents an unparalleled opportunity to reach customers, generate revenues, and strengthen your brand. Do you want to protect and maximize this opportunity, or just leave it to chance?

TAGS: ipCG Team | Mobile | Strategy
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