As far as patents go here's my experience with filing them and from talking to people about them.
- They are expensive. So keep in mind as a bootstrapped startup, your money is often better spent elsewhere. because...
- Doom music. Patent trolls...And actual legitimate patent holders will litigate. You won't have the ability to defend your patent, its territory will get smaller and you may even end up with a useless patent. Or no patent at all. Just a bunch of wasted money.
- Sometimes with technology there's a million ways to achieve the same goals so even if you do patent your method, there's nothing to say someone else's legitimately different method to accomplish the same goals can't exist perfectly fine and happy in the same world (er country I suppose in this case).
- Oh right countries. You can file patents in the US, internationally, or in different countries and just because you have one in the US doesn't mean someone else can't have one in another country. Ain't that a bitch?
- Now, not to list all negatives. People DO buy and sell patents. So don't discount having one just for that purpose. However, if you're going that route, you almost need to model your entire startup around that. Which means any other work may end up being fodder. Could be good or bad depending.
Bottom line, the patent system is a little broken for our needs and now it's also a first to file system which is even more hectic crazy. Being first to market and having a well oiled machine (when it comes to your employees and company, product value, user experience, etc.) is far more important in MOST (though not all apparently) cases.