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I have a patent which describes a system and its functions; I have realized said system by creating a physical device, making an embedded system for it, and it is now commercialized.
Due to the very specific nature of the device, the parts used are very expensive, therefore the device itself is expensive and margins are rather low, although this is no big deal since it's not my main source of income.

Recently, an App came to my attention which realizes the same functionality described in my patent, albeit using smartphone/tablet hardware instead of a dedicated device.
Such App is both available for free, and as with most apps, in a "Professional" paid version.
It also exist on the market an accessory, made by a different company, that once matched with this app renders the phone/tablet and my device functionally the same.

I am already seeking legal advice (haven't found the right lawyer yet), but in the meantime I am curious if I can hope to get something out of the situation: is it realistic that a judge would rule anything in my favor, like the developer needs my permission, or royalties get involved, or anything else?
This question is not about the software and the copyright of the source code; I am based in the EU.

P.S. I just learned that Patents StackExchange exist, please advise if this question should be migrated there.

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  • We won't answer legal advice questions like this on Law.SE
    – Trish
    Mar 2 at 13:18
  • I'm not asking for advice, the laywer will advise me; i'm just wondering if this is a thing, in general: like, smartphones are lightyears ahead of e.g. a PLC system of the '80s or so, therefore many ways have come around recently to do things differently since said things were invented, but the patent covers the 'idea', the 'innovation', i think, not the way it's implemented. So i assumed someone, somewhere, might have faced this situation already, and could share their outcome.
    – Jack
    Mar 2 at 14:06
  • Pretty sure from other answers here that ideas or outcomes are not patentable. It would seem though that your patent would describe in detail what is covered.
    – Michael Hall
    Mar 2 at 15:46
  • Jack, you are on the right track that good patent claims should attempt to cover the innovation and not necessarily all the details of the implementation. However, this is not automatically the case, it depends on how well the patent was drafted, and you haven't posted a link to the patent document that might inform an accurate answer as to whether it might cover smartphone/tablet implementation. At any rate if you are working with a lawyer this point is something they should be able to determine for you based on the claims.
    – bhuff36
    Mar 2 at 21:08

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First, patents do not cover a result they can cover ways to achieve a result. What they are doing may or may not be covered by your patent.

A patent covers what the claims say. In an analogy to a deed, they set a boundary around what is your property. And words matter. If all your claims say you claim a device with an A a B and a C then something without each and every element does not infringe. Claims can be written to cover a system which is a physical thing and they can be written to cover a process which is a series of steps possibly independent of the details of the physical thing implementing those steps.

If all your claims are to things and the competition achieved the same result with a thing that doesn’t fall within the boundaries of a claim then that claim isn’t infringed. If you have a method (process) claim then the details of the thing might not be relevant and it might be infringed.

Note that it can be possible to amend a patent within a fixed period after issuance to include new claims as long as the original application provides support.

An app that doesn’t infringe any claim coupled with a device that also does not infringe might, when combined, infringe. This is more complicated. Assuming the supplier of the two items are not commonly controlled and especially if the two items have other uses, it might be the only the end user who is practicing the patent when they couple the two items. Depending on the other possible uses, the directions that come with the items, etc. one or both of the suppliers might be liable as contributors to infringement.

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    1/2 I've talked with the lawyer today, he asked for the app and general directions on usage, we'll see how this goes, many thanks :) On the other hand: I know, the claims are what matters the most: i think you made my mind snap about the issue at hand, and why it might be difficult to make a case out of this; my patent covers the whole system as an idea, while claims detail how such system may be made into a device, and what constitute a part of said device.
    – Jack
    Mar 5 at 21:00
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    2/2 Now, company A sells the hardware as a standalone for a different purpose, company B makes an accessory which is by chance compatible and also happens to provide a function described in patent claims, while company C makes the app. Parties A, B, and C are totally unrelated, and it's the end users who CAN combine these 3 commercial products to obtain the same device described (emphasis on "can"). Thus my conclusion that there won't be much to do about it, unless lawyer feels otherwise.
    – Jack
    Mar 5 at 21:00

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