Do you have a great idea for a business? Wondering if you can patent a business idea before someone else comes up with something similar? Under normal circumstances, you can’t patent an idea for a business — for example, if you have a unique idea for an online store or a new chain of restaurants. However, you may be able to protect and patent a different method of doing business, if it meets very specific criteria and requirements. Here are a few things you need to know about what patent protection can do for your business.
There are three types of patents you can apply for based on the nature of your invention: utility patents, design patents, or plant (vegetation) patents.
If you have a business idea that is truly unique, then you may be eligible to apply for a utility patent. A utility patent may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter. Your idea or invention must be novel and non-obvious, meaning anyone else with the same skills in this area could not have come up with the same idea. Also, your idea must be clearly explained and documented so that someone equally skilled could make and use the invention.
If you are confident your idea falls within these definitions and requirements, your next steps should include checking for previously filed patents. This can take time, and using the services of a patent attorney can help you meet the documentation and filing requirements that are involved. If you are looking for investors and have established that your business idea or invention is patentable, it will be worth the cost of getting professional help into your business plan and seeing if your investors can cover the costs.
Even if your idea isn’t patentable, it is still important to protect your businesses unique assets. For example, web content can be copyrighted. You can also trademark and should do so if you want to claim and protect your product or business name.
Make protecting your idea part of your business-planning process to ensure your future success.