How to Patent a Website Idea: Everything You Need to Know
Before patenting your website idea, you’ll want to ensure that your idea qualifies for patent protection. 5 min read
How to Patent a Website Idea
If you want to learn how to patent a website idea, it is important that you understand the steps necessary to protect your website idea from others that may try to profit from your idea. For example, a utility patent is the most common type of patent. It covers the functional aspects of an invention. In order for an invention to qualify for patent protection, it must be useful, new, and non-obvious. This means that it must be have some sort of purpose, or otherwise, be useful to potential consumers. It must be new, which means that the invention cannot be similar to another invention already patented. Lastly, it must be non-obvious, meaning that it cannot be an obvious combination of other inventions. These three factors—useful, new, and non-obvious— hold true for website ideas too.
Before patenting your website idea, you’ll want to ensure that your idea qualifies for patent protection. You can do so by searching the United State Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) website. On this site, you can find lists of website ideas that may not qualify for patent protection. Most importantly, your idea must be practical and straightforward.
After you’ve determined that you are qualified for patent protection, you can begin the patent application process on the USPTO website. Keep in mind that, in the application, you’ll have to prove that the website is unique and not merely a duplicate of another website. You should be detailed in your application, as this is a software-related patent application, which is unique to most other types of patents. You’ll also be required to provide reasons as to why you are applying for protection, why it deserves protection, and the benefit of obtaining such protection. Make sure you include diagrams and drawings that are relevant to the website idea, which can be uploaded electronically if filing online. The drawings must also contain content as to their relation to the website idea. Once your application is complete, you’ll need to convert the entire application, including the drawings, to PDF format before uploading to the USPTO website.
Provisional Patents for Websites
A provisional patent application is filed with the USPTO and establishes an early filing date, but doesn’t amount to a formal patent application unless and until the applicant files a non-provisional patent application within the 12 months subsequent to filing the non-provisional patent. A provisional patent application is both less detailed and less costly. Immediately after you file your provisional patent application, you can indicate that your website idea is patent pending. During this time period, you can develop your website idea even further and turn your provisional patent application into a formal non-provisional patent application.
With a provisional application, you’ll want to prepare diagrams and drawings of your website when filing the application. When drafting the diagrams, consider the user interface itself, the software-generated process, and the administrative screens/cods/software used to maintain the website. Since there are many unique business processes involved in your website, you want to keep each one distinct, showcasing the unique methods and processes utilized, and how your website came together. The more specific and detailed you can be, the higher your chance of patent protection. Always be mindful that you can hire a qualified patent attorney to assist you with preparing your application. You can even hire a professional to assist in the drawings, flowcharts, and diagrams; this person may be able to better illustrate your website and form a persuasive and cohesive outline.
The USPTO has determined that software can be protected by a patent in certain circumstances. US companies can apply for such patent protection of innovative processes that exist on their apps and websites. These business methods are patent-qualified, as several companies, including Amazon, have secured patents for specific processes identified on their websites. With the ever-growing changes in technology, companies are competing with one another to find new and creative ways to increase profits and sales while eliminating the hassle and length of time it may take to purchase products on these websites.
Copyrights to Patenting
The concept of copyright is different than the patent itself. In simple terms, you can’t copyright the concept itself but you can copyright the design of the website and the code that runs the website. A copyright is generally a specific expression, i.e. text, photography, music, etc. The code of the website falls under the ‘text’ category, and is copyrighted the moment the author writes it. Therefore, copyrights don’t generally need to be registered.
The patent covers both inventions and processes, so the copyright may result in a software patent or business method patent. But be mindful that patents can take up to several years for completion. Therefore, once you can claim a copyright, you’ll want to have any pertinent records available to apply for a patent as soon as possible. Again, remember that if you have a good website idea, others will want to copy it. But the idea by itself cannot be patent without also defining the processes that the idea will use to achieve the end goal. But the process itself will need to be unique, which can be rather hard to prove, since some methods used on your website idea are probably already being used on other websites.
Once you have proven that your website idea is unique, you can apply for the patent. However, if your application is rejected, you’ll have to argue against it providing additional proof as to why it should in fact be protected by a patent. If you are unable to furnish additional proof, you may want to consider hiring a patent attorney who can assist you in the process.
Patenting a Website
While you can’t just get a patent on an entire website, you can obtain a patent on specific processes identified on the website. For example, a website is generally made up of several different parts working together. This can include design elements, codes, text, images, sounds, videos, as well as other various components. There may be certain parts of your website that qualify for patent protection. While most companies can probably find a business process or piece of software on their website to be able to patent, companies should keep in mind that it is very time-consuming and costly to obtain patents on website ideas. There is no guarantee that the patent application will be successful in the end. For those smaller businesses, other types of applications that can be filed, which may be more compelling than patents. However, for large companies, such as Amazon, Samsung, and Panasonic, filing for patent protection is the norm.
Patent protection is very important for companies wishing to create long-term value in their company. Not only does the website idea or business process provide your company with a competitive edge, but it is often crucial for specific business functions in order to assist the company in its daily operations. For that reason, it is a good idea to consult an experienced lawyer to help you with your IP protection. While there are seminars and workshops you can attend, you just won’t be as trained or well versed in this area as a patent attorney is. A patent attorney can make the process go more smoothly. Most importantly, a patent attorney will do the legwork for you, ensuring that you have a well-drafted application to increase your changes of receiving protection.
If you need help learning how to patent your website idea, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel’s marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Stripe, and Twilio.