Why? What? When? How? These are some of the most used words in John’s dictionary. He’s pretty curious about the workings behind what happens in his life, and many of those have to do with the inventions and the workings of intellectual property in the world around him.
Every invention, however big or small, starts with the seed of an idea. but can you protect these ideas? John’s been wondering about that lately, and he turns to IP Geek for an expert opinion on the topic.
Hello IP Geek! I am currently working on this great idea- which would save a lot of time and labor in restaurants. It’s still in the starting stages, but I really don’t want it to get stolen.
Can I patent my idea to protect it?
Hi John, I think we’ll have to dig a little deeper to see if it is patentable. To get a patent, an idea needs to be related to a specific technology and fulfil the patentability criteria. Which is to say; it must be novel, inventive and must be capable of being used commercially.
As we’ve discussed before, the patent system not only serves to protect inventions, but also tries to encourage innovation.
Protecting ideas that are non-technical would lead to monopolies that may not actually progress and this in turn would hinder innovation and further discovery.
So I suggest that you first see whether your idea can be expressed in a tangible form. After that, it must also satisfy the patentability criteria and have practical utility.
But doesn’t every invention begin with a novel idea?
From my perspective, it makes no sense that you can’t protect that idea- I’m sure many innovators give up early because of this.
The thing with ideas is that anyone can have them, but until they are in a form where they can be made or reproduced, they are confined to just your brain. Imagine, for example, if someone patented the idea of going faster than light- how would that even work?
An idea by itself does not have any monetary value and it cannot be used. More importantly, if you give one person ownership over an idea, nobody else can work to make it plausible. That would affect innovation far too much to be practical.
Okay, I suppose that makes sense. But what if the idea is something more like mine- I’m not quite at the stage where it works yet, but I do have some ideas on how to make it work. How can I protect that?
At the nascent stage of a workable idea, you could protect it by using Non- Disclosure Agreements when you reveal the details to people. You need to remember, however, that NDAs will be binding only on the parties who sign them.
My advice? Make sure you keep your product under wraps till you reach a point where it is patentable, and always use NDAs if you are working with other people on it.
Well, I guess I’ll need to figure out the technical details then, so that I can get the Patent protection. And as you suggested, I’ll use NDAs till then. Thanks a lot for clarifying things, IP Geek. It has been very illuminating.
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