Yes. It is certainly possible to obtain patent protection for applications written for mobile devices. Patent protection extends to software in the United States of America. Whether or not you should attempt to acquire patent protection is a business decision. A patent will protect your idea from potential competitors however this protection comes at a cost that may be too high initially for startups. Additionally, the United States and Patent Trademark Office does suffer from a backlog, which means that your patent application will typically not be examined for about 2 years after filing. In a dynamic field, where the market is constantly changing to track particular trends, a patent obtained for a mobile application 2-3 years after filing may not be relevant anymore.
However, before pursuing a patent application for your mobile application, we suggest a patent search. A patent search enables you to determine if someone has already invented your idea. If your idea has already been disclosed in a patent, a patent publication or some other form of literature, this means that you may need to rethink your idea. Only unique features or elements of your idea are patentable.
Currently, so many mobile applications exist, that it takes a lot for an application to separate itself from the pack. As a result, a patent granted for a mobile application may require that the claims for the application to be written narrowly. A patent with narrow claims may not provide broad coverage and it may also be easily circumvented by a work-around but having a patent sometimes is half the battle. Having a patent is a great marketing tool. A great selling point for any idea is that it is patented. This is of great importance to investors because it gives them the security in knowing that if your idea is successful, a third party cannot simply copy your idea and rebrand it.
If you have a question regarding patents or intellectual property, feel free to contact me.