Patent/Trademark Question

20 replies
Hey,

I am going to start a new business.
I was wondering if you can patent/trademark an idea?

That may sound like a dumb question.... That's because I don't know a lot about trademarking and/or patenting something.

Thus, the reason both are here. Not sure which one, if any, would be applicable.

The business can do very well just in my local area.... $50k per month on the low end... And it's such a simple idea, that if I spread the idea too much someone else will pick up on it. I am trying to avoid that without having a non-compete and non-disclosure agreement with everyone I wish to talk to.

I know this is offline marketing. I want to start a new offline business, but would like some educated warrior(s) advice, before marketing.


Edit: I am in MI if it matters....
#patent #patent or trademark #question #trademark
  • Profile picture of the author Green Moon
    Originally Posted by vndnbrgj View Post

    Hey,

    I am going to start a new business.
    I was wondering if you can patent/trademark an idea?
    Trademark? Never. A trademark merely identifies the origin of goods or services.

    Patent? You can't patent an abstract idea but some business process patents come pretty close. The U.S. patent law provides that processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and compositions of matter are patentable. Patents must meet some specific criteria: They must be novel (new), they must be useful and they must be non-obvious.

    Most ideas fail to meet the requirements for a patent.
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    • Profile picture of the author vndnbrgj
      Originally Posted by Green Moon View Post

      Trademark? Never. A trademark merely identifies the origin of goods or services.

      Patent? You can't patent an abstract idea but some business process patents come pretty close. The U.S. patent law provides that processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and compositions of matter are patentable. Patents must meet some specific criteria: They must be novel (new), they must be useful and they must be non-obvious.

      Most ideas fail to meet the requirements for a patent.
      I want to apologize in this post, so I don't have to in any subsequent posts.
      I am not that educated in this matter, so I apologize if these seem like dumb questions.

      With that out of the way, thank you for responding. However, I think you might have only confused me more...

      This idea is for a service. It will be aimed at consumers. Both business and residential. I would like to start the company, but am not opposed to licensing it to larger institutions.

      If a trademark identifies the origin, couldn't I trademark it. Thus, ensuring the origin starts with me. Anyone caught trying to replicate would be infringing on my trademark??

      Patent:
      1. It is a novel idea.. To me anyway. I do not know of anyone doing this, as a service, on a large scale.
      2. It is an extremely useful service.
      3. Non-obvious.... Not sure what this means or what it's referring to.
      Like I said, it's a service. You didn't know the specifics before, you might have a little more insight now.... but I don't understand this part.
      If my service was being a plumber... Does that mean it can't be obvious I am a plumber. (No intentions of being a plumber, been there done that.)

      My service idea is more of a convenience. Anyone can do it.
      Like going to the gas station to buy a 20oz Coke for the same price as a 2 liter. You buy the 20oz because it's cold now. But, you could buy the 2 liter, stick it in the fridge. Wait, and put it in a portable container. More beverage, same price. Less convenient.
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  • Profile picture of the author PhilaPM
    Talk with a patent attorney.
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  • Profile picture of the author vndnbrgj
    It's a spin on a home warranty....
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    - Neale Donald Wilson -
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    • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
      Originally Posted by vndnbrgj View Post

      It's a spin on a home warranty....
      In my opinion, Terry is right... you won't be able to get that patented. Again, would recommend talking to a lawyer that does this every day. lol.
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      • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
        Originally Posted by Terry Gorry View Post

        You cannot patent an idea-you can patent an invention which is a completely different thing.

        US Patents Office:
        What can and cannot be patented?

        What can be patented - utility patents are provided for a new, nonobvious and useful:
        • Process
        • Machine
        • Article of manufacture
        • Composition of matter
        • Improvement of any of the above
        Note: In addition to utility patents, encompassing one of the categories above, patent protection is available for (1) ornamental design of an article of manufacture or (2) asexually reproduced plant varieties by design and plant patents.
        What cannot be patented:
        • Laws of nature
        • Physical phenomena
        • Abstract ideas
        • Literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works (these can be Copyright protected). Go to the Copyright Office .
        • Inventions which are:
          • Not useful (such as perpetual motion machines); or
          • Offensive to public morality
        Invention must also be:
        • Novel
        • Nonobvious
        • Adequately described or enabled (for one of ordinary skill in the art to make and use the invention)
        • Claimed by the inventor in clear and definite terms
        Source: US Patents Office


        And you cannot copyright an idea.
        I've been there.. and yes you can technically copyright an idea if you publish it, it is copyrighted material in content. I'm sure that wouldn't get you very far, but you're seeing this as black and white, and it definitely isn't.


        Federal law dictates eligibility for patents, and to receive one, ideas must meet four requirements: the invention must have utility; it must be novel; it must not have been obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the art at the time the invention was made, and it must be thoroughly explained and documented so that someone else would be able to make it.

        If your idea meets these criteria, you can apply to the U.S. Patent and Trademark office for a patent.



        Like I originally said.. an IDEA CAN BE PATENTED IF it is put into action. It has to evolve into something MORE. Extreme documentation, directions to make it, maybe a proof of what your idea is, would possibly qualify as a patent. It can be a technical process, which could be patented. A technical process can be a mere idea that is turned into a process and patented.


        There isn't really anything up for debate here, it is fact. If you wake up one day with a dream and want to patent it, of course that wouldn't work. There is no real process and you need the process or whatever it is well documented. Whether the OP would qualify, is something he should ask an attorney. You can also patent a "new method of doing business".
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  • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
    Originally Posted by Terry Gorry View Post

    Hi,
    No, it is not a dumb question at all and the answer is no, you cannot patent or trademark an idea.

    Terry
    It isn't as white and black as that.

    You CAN indeed patent an idea but the idea needs to be more than an idea. The idea needs to be a process or method, product, or composition. It can be an idea, but it can't be at that stage. You need the idea to be something MORE. It can be an idea to improve storage on a computer, and that would likely be something you could patent.. but there are lots of intricacies.

    Definitely consult with a patent attorney instead of people on a message board who probably have 0 experience in this.

    If you do not qualify for a patent... then you can copyright your idea.

    Trademark, is something I'd need to know more about what you're trying to do before I can give any kind of advice on that. There are many trademarks and sometimes that can be just as tricky.

    For all these, you will probably need a competent attorney.
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  • Profile picture of the author numba8
    I'm pretty sure you can only patent something if it is in the form of an actual product.
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  • Profile picture of the author norrimac
    Most of this advice is correct, but what you're actually worried about is somebody stealing your idea before you get a chance to launch - a common concern and indeed a problem.

    What you need to do is create proof that you originated the idea or concept on a certain date and made contact with whoever you need to talk to about the project.

    Send me an IM - there's a way to do this online. Norm
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  • Profile picture of the author jmartinez
    I went through the patent process before at my day job. The company I worked for at the time hired patent attorneys to patent the work I was doing at the time.

    The first thing I'd say is if this idea is worth what you think it is, then talking with a patent attorney for a 1 hour consultation should be a no brainer. You will get all your questions answered regarding whether or not your idea is patentable. Also, at least from my experience, patent attorneys are really good at taking your idea and turning it into a process, method, or something that is patentable. So, from that respect an idea can be patentable.

    Another thing, once you announce your idea/method in public the clock starts ticking. You have a limited time to file for a patent after that happens. At least that's what the attorneys kept telling me.

    You may also want to conduct a patent search before anything just to be sure a patent doesn't already exist for your idea. In my case, that was the first thing that needed to be done. You may be surprised at how many patents exist for things that aren't in the market. Just becuase no one is doing something you think can be patented doesn't mean someone else hasn't already patented it.
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  • Profile picture of the author vndnbrgj
    Thank you everyone for your feedback...
    I decided to put the idea on the back burner for now due to the responses.
    I was going to jump in with two feet and see what happens....
    Now, I think I will inch my way towards the goal.

    But, I got another idea for a hedge fund during this process.
    I will be jumping on this one.
    So, thank you everyone.
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    • Profile picture of the author norrimac
      One thing to add: a full patent can easily run into $25,000 just for the USA alone. Also, patent attorneys have been known to string potential inventors along to generate huge fees. (GASP!)

      There's a dead easy search facility on the USPTO that will let you find out loads of similar patents.
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      • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
        Originally Posted by Terry Gorry View Post

        No protection is provided for ideas while the ideas are in a persons mind; copyright law protects the form of expression of ideas, not the ideas themselves.

        Similarly with patents-you cannot patent an idea.You can patent an invention which is a physical expression of the idea.

        As stated above, there is no debate here..just as theft and assault are unlawful regardless of what jurisdiction you find yourself in you cannot patent or copyright an idea.

        If you could patent or copyright an idea, you could patent or copyright a dream-check out your local patent or copyright register and ask the helpful gentleman or lady to show you to the "dreams" section:rolleyes:

        As stated above, there is no debate
        You're seeing it as too black and white, and unfortunately missed the point I was making in its entirety.
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        • Profile picture of the author Jerry McGough
          If you want to proceed with some protection, look into a Provisoinary Patent.

          A few years back, it was only a couple hundred dollars.

          On a regular Patent, you have to be a couple of steps along in the process (and a lot of money) before you can say "Patent Pending"....which in itself is a deterrent.

          With a Provisionary Patent, you can say "Patent Pending" immediately upon filing.
          What this does is buy you a year to protect and research your idea.
          The US Patent Office freated it to balance the playing field with some things going on in Europe.

          My info is a few years old. If it sounds like a way to go, then definitely see a Patent attorney first.

          Also, be aware that some Patent Attorneys will try to talk you out of this since there's no decent money in it for them.
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          • Profile picture of the author iAmNameLess
            Originally Posted by Jerry McGough View Post

            If you want to proceed with some protection, look into a Provisoinary Patent.

            A few years back, it was only a couple hundred dollars.

            On a regular Patent, you have to be a couple of steps along in the process (and a lot of money) before you can say "Patent Pending"....which in itself is a deterrent.

            With a Provisionary Patent, you can say "Patent Pending" immediately upon filing.
            What this does is buy you a year to protect and research your idea.
            The US Patent Office freated it to balance the playing field with some things going on in Europe.

            My info is a few years old. If it sounds like a way to go, then definitely see a Patent attorney first.

            Also, be aware that some Patent Attorneys will try to talk you out of this since there's no decent money in it for them.
            THIS!! Absolutely correct.. I should have known this too because I have a client that buys a bunch of patents and he was going on about that about 6 months ago, it was all mumbo jumbo to me though. Best info in the thread, for sure!
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      • Profile picture of the author norrimac
        Hi Terry, I do agree, but what I'm saying is that those concerned with IP theft CAN record any communication, which exposes to the recipient, an idea or concept:

        that communication IS copyright by the creator, by its very existence. Making a record, therefore, of the communication (and its inherent 'copyright') gives that creator evidence of the date and time of the existence of the idea. If the recipient should rip off the idea, then the creator has evidence that HE/SHE was the originator.

        All evidence, however tenuous, is of value.
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  • Profile picture of the author justinharry1
    Very useful discussion thanks for sharing friends..
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