As technology advances, entrepreneurs, trademark owners, tech startups, or local business owners are investing in the digital space through app innovations. Because of the pandemic, there has been an upsurge in new technology that helps consumers have a hand-free and contactless interaction with businesses. Such is the case of Walmart and its subsidiary, Sam’s Club who claim that their Scan and Go technology was the first of its kind before BJ’s compiled its technology. These big titans have been involved in large legal chaos before. What about smaller businesses and patent infringement?
All levels of businesses are equally affected by the patent infringement. Working with an experienced patent law firm at all stages of the intellectual protection and the patenting process can ease or prevent the escalation of legal lawsuits.
Patent Infringement Scandal Lessons For Startups
On March 22nd, 2022, Walmart sued BJ’s for alleged infringement on its Scan and Go technology. Walmart accuses BJ’s of stealing their mobile self-checkout by merely changing the logo and name of the app to Express Pay. Walmart claims that its patented technology enables customers to walk through the store scanning items in their cart in order to avoid long lines at checkouts. Walmart maintains that the technology had been developed over a decade of hard work and was implemented during the pandemic.
This mobile feature comes with the Walmart + membership. This is a feature that allows their members contact-free checkout and streamless store shopping. The feature was installed under their services on their Walmart app. The technology is patented under Walmart’s subsidiaries, Sam’s West, Inc and Walmart Apollo LLC. Sam’s begun to use its Scan and Go feature back in 2016 and since then the technology has been developed. These innovations were protected by four patents filed from 2018 to 2020 by Walmart.
BJ’s released a strikingly similar technology in 2021. The suspicion arose due to BJ’s Express Pay having similar functionalities. BJ’s has not responded to these allegations. This lawsuit exemplifies the importance of patenting and protecting your businesses’ intellectual property. In order to receive the full protection of a patent, applying for a patent at the right time and with the right details about your unique app is essential.
The mobile app industry is highly competitive and app creators may wonder when and how to go about safeguarding their innovations. In order for your creation to be patented, you need to prove that what you have is truly novel, different enough from similar products and that a person with average skills can not create.
When applying for a patent for your new technology, the U.S Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) will carefully compare your novel technology to assess whether an existing patent details a similar patent filed previously. Patenting your app takes about seven steps through the USPTO if you are to secure a patent correctly. This process can be daunting without the guidance of an experienced patent attorney. However, patenting your apps does not mean that it will prevent lawsuits for patent infringement, such as the case of Walmart Vs. BJ’s.
Protecting Intellectual Property in Technology Companies
When can you apply for a patent for your app? You can apply for a patent early when there’s detailed documentation on how the technology will work, its’ impact, and the technical build-out of the technology before actually creating the technology. Filing early does not guarantee patent approval, but app developers can file a provisional patent application, which holds your place in line in the event that another developer of business tries to file a patent for a similar innovation as you.
This means an earlier application is prioritized. We advise scheduling an appointment with a law firm to devise a strategy to protect your intellectual property in a timely and orderly fashion. Working with a patent attorney increases your chances of getting patented as an experienced attorney can guide you and tailor the process to your specific needs and vision. All brands, entrepreneurs, and business owners are well-advised to consult with an experienced attorney in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta, Miami, or Dallas, before patenting their software.