Can You Patent an Idea?

For many inventors, a patent is one of the most worthwhile investments one can make, as they can often provide different layers of protection for those seeking exclusive rights to their inventions and products. Without a patent, a competitor may be able to make and profit from your product or invention. To prevent this and to protect your inventions, patents are essential. However, before the patent process is initiated, it is important to have a clear understanding of whether or not your concept is patentable. Importantly, an idea, alone, cannot be patented. While most, if not all, inventions begin as ideas, those ideas must culminate into an invention in order to be patented.

What is able to be patented?

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In order for an invention to be patented, there are criteria to which must be met: not only must the invention be new, but it must also be useful, novel, and non-obvious. This can apply to a multitude of different patentable subjects, such as a product, a process, a design, or a combination thereof.

Patents, however, are not available for an idea, a concept or a suggestion that is abstract or otherwise lacks a certain level of definition or specificity. For example, if you were to invent a machine used to sort clothing by color, a patent application that merely identifies this idea or thought would not be successful—rather, your patent application must fully describe how you would make and use the machine, as well as how the machine would function or operate. This is the basic difference between an idea and an invention. Learn more about how to file a patent application here.

What are the requirements for a patent?

Additionally, to obtain a patent, the invention in question must not have been previously patented, described in any sort of publication, or on sale or in use prior to the filing date of your patent application. This could refer to any type of public disclosure in which the invention may have been available to others. Novelty is key when seeking a patent, ensuring that the invention is new and that it is not an obvious variation or modification of something already in existence. Because of this, the filing date of your patent application can play a large role in the approval process.

Ultimately, an idea, by itself, is not able to be patented—the invention that results from that idea, however, could be. If you have any questions regarding your possible patent or wish to have further clarification before moving forward with the application process, it may be a good time to speak with an experienced attorney. Please reach out to any of the attorneys at Gerben IP for a consultation regarding the next steps in your patent journey.

Benjamin Hanrahan, Esq.

Benjamin Hanrahan, Esq. is a Registered Patent attorney, Board Certified in Intellectual Property Law by the Florida Bar, and recognized by Super Lawyers.

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