How to Patent a Business Idea

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor.

Generally, the term of a new patent is 20 years from the date on which the application for the patent was filed in the United States or, in special cases, from the date an earlier related application was filed, subject to the payment of maintenance fees. U.S. patent grants are effective only within the United States, U.S. territories, and U.S. possessions.

Three Types of Patents

There are three distinctive types of patents one can apply for:

  • Utility patents - are issued for new and useful process, the machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
  • Design patents – are issued for new, original, and ornamental designs for an article of manufacture
  • Plant patents - are granted for the invention or discovery and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant

How to Patent Your Idea

Prior to applying for your patent, you must ensure your idea falls within the definitions and requirements required to apply for a patent, and that there are no other previously filed.

At time of application, you will be required to disclose the nature of the invention, along with a detailed written description. You may also be required to submit drawings or renderings. Patents are filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

If you’re working with partners, have them agree to a non-disclosure agreement to ensure business activity remains confidential. Non-disclosure agreements protect an idea before associates or co-workers know about it.

With that, it is worth noting that many investors are not comfortable signing non-discloses before discussing the idea. Clients may feel the same way, but you can make them more at ease by attaching a confidential agreement with your business plan instead of asking for a signature upfront.

Agreements with no expiration dates are more potent.

Non-Competitive Agreements

A non-competitive agreement is applicable when you hire someone to assist you. The document prevents companies or individuals from working with a competitor that would threaten your business operations. When hiring a helper, establish that you are the owner of any enhancements to the original idea. In other words, you own any ideas an employee or assist creates, but you would need to place that person as a co-inventor on your patent. However, they have no legal rights to the invention.

Place a “Confidential” stamp on all of your work so you can lay claim to your work. A stamp also prevents anyone from making physical copy of any documents you create, such as an idea summary or business plan.

Patents and Trademarks for Assistance

Provisional patents provide another avenue of protection. A provisional patent allows you to protect an idea for up to 12 months, otherwise known as a “patent pending.” To file, you need to fill out a provisional patent application. You can do so online, or you can use Patent Wizard for assistance. Provisional patents are cheaper, and it is a shorter process when compared to other patents.

Competitor Relationships

Establishing relationships with competitors may seem counterproductive, but you can benefit in the followings ways:

  • Competitors will have little incentive to cheat you because they would be profiting from your business endeavors
  • A Competitor would not see you as a primary threat
  • Partnerships make it harder for other competitors to rip off your ideas.

In addition, you stand to learn from more experienced competitors and gain a deeper understanding of your market space.

Cost of Patents

Patent fees can vary from anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars, and defending a patent can be more expensive. Moreover, competitors may be compelled to find loopholes around your patent. Make sure your patent is sound to prevent competitors from destroying your work.

No Need to Worry

While ideas are important, the implementation and business strategy is the most important factor, according to Scott Fox, owner/founder of The internet allows users to copy ideas, regardless of copyright or patent protections. Fox maintains that building your brand and attracting customers is more important than laying claim to ideas at all cost. Before you start researching and hiring attorneys, make sure that a patent is the right decision, or the right time, for your business.

To find out more about how to patent a business idea,  post your legal need on the UpCounsel marketplace. UpCounsel’s top lawyers can help you through the patent process, including the necessary legal avenues if your patent is violated. UpCounsel lawyers have impressive resumes, working with the likes of Google and Airbnb.