Ideas Can Be Protected by Patents and Copyrights

Inventors may ask themselves, “can ideas be protected by patents and copyrights?” When it comes to the law and inventions, copyrights protect expressions. Patents are used to protect specific inventions. Neither of these protect an individual’s ideas. Ideas by themselves are not inventions that can be patented.

Protecting Ideas: Can Ideas Be Protected or Patented?

However, the United States does not ask inventors to have working prototypes under all conditions to apply for a patent. All that you need is to be able to describe the invention in such a way that another person could feasibly make and use it.

A great many people have ideas. However, the people who can turn those ideas into a profit are the ones who are able to explain the idea well enough and detail it so the idea becomes an asset that is protected by law. This is especially true when it comes to a physical object like an invention.


If your idea is a story one and is not immediately transformable into a physical product or invention, then this would be something that can be protected under a copyright.

There are options available to you when it comes to getting a patent. Utility and design patents are the two options. Most people will have an idea but will have difficulty turning it into a specific invention or product. This means that it remains a concept.  A copyright allows for the protection of said idea as soon as it is formulated. Basically, copyrights offer protection as soon as you write an idea down. This is proof that the idea exists and that is was created by you.

Copyrights exist and work if you have an idea and write that idea down into a summary. This creates a tangible form of the idea and a copyright protection can be attached to it. Copyright durations vary a great deal and start when the work is created and registered. Generally speaking, it will be protected for the entirety of the creator’s life plus an additional 70 years.

Registering the idea and copyrighting is allows for there to be a public record of the copyright. This is ideal to support your claim that the work is yours and it also allows for claims of infringement if someone happens to violate the copyright.


Trademarks, like copyrights do not require a registration to protect you and your invention. However, it is wise to register the trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and you will see some benefits for doing this.

The registration of the trademark is a bit more complicated than it is with a copyright. This is one reason why that it is a good idea to have a professional work on the application and to assist in the filing process.


When it comes to patents, there is no automatic patent like there is with the copyright.  This means that if you want to protect your invention or the fleshed-out idea of an invention, then you will need to apply for the patent through the official process.

When it comes to utility inventions there is an alternative route you can take to protect yourself. A provisional patent allows you to execute an application that allows for 12 months of protection.

Patent Protection

However, you will need to file a non-provisional or a traditional patent. Once you do this and you are able to garner the patent, you will be able to hold it for 20 years. This allows you to have certain rights. For example, you can exclude other people from making your product, using a similar one, or selling it without permission. Also, it offers protection from others who may decide to import the same or similar product into the country if it is not made by you.

In terms of ideas, you may have specific protections that involve trademarks, copyrights, and patents.

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