Intellectual Property: Can You Patent an Idea?

patent idea

Credit: Pimthida

 

Applying for a patent to protect a physical design or item is a necessary part of innovation. What many creators don’t realize is that the same intellectual property rights cannot be applied to ideas. Legally, there is no claim to an idea that is not clearly defined. A general plan or notion without some identifiable embodiment cannot be protect as Intellectual Property (IP) by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the UK, a consolidated office which deals with the management of all patents, copyrights, trademarks, and design rights.

Turning Ideas into Money

“What separates those who can turn their ideas into money from those who cannot is a strategy to define the idea enough so that it can become an asset that can ultimately be protected,” says IPWatchdog, a company which specializes in IP rights including those created by individuals and small businesses.

In order to be eligible for protection under the UK’s current patent laws, inventors must take their ideas and transform them into a concept which is describable to the point that others could create or use it. Proving your concept on paper and in legal documents is vital in seeking patent approval. The first step in ensure your idea – once you have a firm grasp of what it is, and why it’s unique – is to verify that it is original. Research should be done through the IPO or through an agent certified by the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA). Hiring a professional may require an upfront investment but may ultimately save you time and money by ensuring that your innovation is unique and eligible to receive a patent.

Developing the Product

To qualify for a patent or design rights, your idea must be further developed until they fulfill the legal requirements set by the IPO. There are several methods of doing this, and usually depend on the type of idea you’ve started with. For many, hiring a product design form is the easiest way to develop their product from paper to prototyping. Experts in engineering, research, development and IP rights can help inventors navigate the unfamiliar waters of innovation.

According to Innovate Product Design, a company which specializes in the life-cycle of innovation, “It is important to develop the idea, looking at materials, manufacturing methods, functionality and aesthetic form prior to applying for protection.”

For many inventors, taking their ideas to the stage where they are eligible for patent protection can be difficult. Using the help of a professional firm who supports an individual through the entire process can help provide the motivation to see the project to full realization. Employing seasoned engineers, designers, and production managers to clear the hurdles set in place by the IPO can be vital in being rewarded a patent.

If your idea is not for an invention, but a brand name or other written work, you will likely need to petition for a trademark or copyright rather than a patent, which reserved for a physical item or method of production. A CIPA-certified agent will be able to help you to determine which legal process is best for your idea.

Great Ideas, Better Results

While an idea cannot be patented, according to the laws put in place by the IPO, it is the first step in the right direction. For those who have an idea for an original product or a unique business model, it’s important to develop it to the point it becomes patentable as soon as possible. Hiring an expert to help define your idea and eventually apply for a patent can be invaluable when time means everything in the world of innovation.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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