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I have an app that introduces an innovative user interface & features and I would like to take steps to protect it. From my understanding it is possible to patent/copyright user interfaces and individual unique features. Please bear with me as I'm a software guy :)

App itself is not unique in a sense that its a general utility app, and there are many other similar apps on the market. My app however introduces a unique & innovative UI that sets it apart from competition. I would like to protect the user interface from being copied as a whole or as individual parts / screens.

Additionally my app has 2-3 special/unique features that involve somewhat more complex data elements & processing - I would like to be able to protect these features from being copied as well.

How would I go about getting started to file a patent for my UI & features, any online services you'd recommend?

And how extensively can I go to protect maximum elements of my app, as in what else I should be considering or thinking about?

Thanks.

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You need to first find a patent agent to do prior art search and determine if your invention is patent-able. The patent law regarding software patent is an intensely debated issue and therefore a moving target.

If your design is not 100% functional and can be considered ornamental, you may want to get a Design patent first. The protection is weaker but the cost is substantially lower than that of a Utility patent. After your first filing of a design patent, you have about a year to decide on if you want to get a utility patent.

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Like any patent, you can patent any part of your app, as long as no aspect of it is already in public domain (prior art), for a small fee. All you need to do to provide extra protection for your app it to be more detailed in the description and specify potential code variants you also want protection. The more you disclose and efficiently draft and claim, the more it is protected.

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    This isn't really true--you can't patent any part of an app. There are lots and lots of things that aren't patentable for one reason or another, and the status of something being in the public domain is just one of them. Not to mention, many people would not consider the lifetime costs of a patent to be "a small fee." You probably also wouldn't want to build your patent completely contingent on a few code variants. Not to mention, since you're talking about claims, it's likely that the examiner would ask you to split one application up into several smaller ones if you included too much. – Matthew Haugen Mar 10 '15 at 19:15

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