Dear M & M: I have a great business idea. What do I need to do to patent it before someone else does it? – Sue
According to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) one cannot patent an idea. One might be able to patent a method, improvement or a process. There are three types of patents one can get; utility, design and plant. A utility patent may be granted for a new process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter or any new and useful improvement. The (USPTO) claims that it must be novel, non-obvious – meaning anyone else with the same skills in this area could not have come up with the idea.
Finally it must be documented and explained so that anyone equally skilled could make and use the invention. The USPTO has over 12,000 employees, of whom about three quarters are examiners and others have technical and legal training. Patent applications are received at the rate of over 500,000 per year. If you think your idea falls within the above guidelines, the next step is to check previously filed patents.
The following link will get you to the (USPTO’s) official web site for assistance; http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks-application-process/filing-online/filing-your-application-online for general information, mailing addresses, Internet addresses, USPTO.gov accounts, how to use the online fee payment management system and contact information for other USPTO services. General Support is available Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET (except federal holidays).
Toll-Free: 800-786-9199, Local: 571-272-1000, TTY: 800-877-8339. Remember every county has their own rules and laws governing this area of protection. Make sure you consult someone knowledgeable in patent laws in any country you are considering doing business in. Just as each state has various rules and regulations regarding protection of business name and trademark protection. As a sole proprietor in Arizona one can protect their trade name in the state for $10.00.
We are not attorneys and highly recommend you consult a patent attorney. Copyrights and Trademarks are other ways to protect your idea. A copyright is for original written works, music, or video. A trademark protects words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that distinguish goods and services.