Can I patent my concept of my online idea? If yes, what do I need to start my patent? 14 Answers as of May 17, 2013

I am worried someone will steal my idea/concept when I start asking around for an investor. Next will be a person to write up the software, and some server stations. Before I can get this idea off the ground, I need to make sure this idea is well protected and I monopolize the concept to minimize or eliminate all other competition.

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Barton Barton & Plotkin
Barton Barton & Plotkin | Maurice Ross
You cannot patent a mere idea. Patents cover only tangible inventions that have been enabled and reduced to practice sufficiently to teach persons of ordinary skill how to make and practice your invention without undue experimentation. If you are worried about someone stealing your idea, you need to retain counsel to assist you in meeting your objectives. Such counsel will require that anyone who helps you prepare software and otherwise work in developing your concept sign "work for hire" and non-disclosure agreements that protect you. You cannot draft these agreements properly on your own-this is not a Legal Zoom project. You need to retain IP counsel.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 5/17/2013
Eminent IP, P.C.
Eminent IP, P.C. | Paul C. Oestreich
If your "concept of an online idea" is useful, novel and nonobvious, it is patentable. You should start with a patentability (or novelty) search to see if your concept is likely to be patentable. If the search is encouraging, you should file a patent application to begin the process of patenting your invention. Subsequently, when contacting investors, software developers and any other third party, you should also use a nondisclosure agreement to confidentially disclose your invention for limited purposes and thereby give yourself an added layer of protection (contract law) with those you choose to disclose your invention. As always, you should consult with a patent attorney who can further advise you based on your specific facts.
Answer Applies to: Utah
Replied: 5/16/2013
Mark S. Hubert PC
Mark S. Hubert PC | Mark Hubert
Possibly - you can't patent ideas - you must patent the embodiment of the idea. Ie the device or the step by step instructions for a method.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 5/16/2013
Webb IP Law Group
Webb IP Law Group | Jason P Webb
You probably can, as long as it is new, useful, non-obvious and patentable subject matter. The patentable subject matter part is where you have to be careful with online ideas - some are and some are not, so you need to consult with an attorney who is experienced with software patents. I would definitely get that figured out before you start talking to investors. You will want to start with a basic patent screening search if the attorney tells you that it can be patentable subject matter. The search will tell you a lot about your chances of it being new and non-obvious. It is pretty easy to show that ideas are useful, so that rarely is a problem.
Answer Applies to: Utah
Replied: 5/16/2013
Law Office of Mathew R. P. Perrone, Jr. | Mathew Roy Patrick Perrone, Jr.
You to write out a description and make your sketches. Then talk to a patent attorney.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 5/16/2013
    Malhotra Law Firm, PLLC
    Malhotra Law Firm, PLLC | Deepak Malhotra
    Yes, it is possible to patent conceptual ideas as long as you provide enough information that someone of ordinary skill in the art can make and use the invention. This can be done with flowcharts and block diagrams. The U.S. has switched to a first-to-file, absolute novelty patent system. It is important to file before talking to anyone on a non-confidential basis. There is a limited one year grace period in certain circumstances but there are big risks to relying on it.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/16/2013
    Law Office of Kirk Buhler
    Law Office of Kirk Buhler | Kirk A Buhler
    An idea may not be patentable. You must be able to document your idea sufficiently that it can be duplicated. The patent office further does not like "software" type patents. Your best first set should be to get a patent search to determine if your idea has been published patented or disclosed by others. Only the "novel" features of the idea will be allowed a patent. To start a patent you can visit the US patent office at, but a book on patenting or visit the public library. A patent application must be prepared according to the patent application rules and filed. The patent office offers a Provisional patent application that will give you patent pending status for one year while you further develop your product and secure investors.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/16/2013
    Michael M. Ahmadshahi
    Michael M. Ahmadshahi | Michael M. Ahmadshahi, Ph.D., Esq.
    An inexpensive but effective way to protect your idea for one year until you find investors is to file a provisional patent application.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/15/2013
    Gerald R. Black, Esq.
    Gerald R. Black, Esq. | Gerald R. Black
    Generally, the initial costs involving inventions are relatively affordable. A Patent Search costs between $400 and $1000. A Provisional Application can be filed for $2000 to $4000. The ranges are necessary depending upon the complexity of the technology. The U.S. Provisional Application will provide an inventor with patent pending status for all the new technology disclosed in the Application for one year. The Provisional Applications are generally not published and will need to be followed up with either a U.S. Patent Application or an international Patent Application prior to the anniversary of the filing date of the U.S. Provisional Application. The U.S. Provisional Application will protect the new technology that is disclosed in 146 countries by international treaty for 12 months. While you can try to do this yourself, the stakes may be high if the technology has great value. It is recommended that you seek the advice and counsel of experts who are professionals either Patent Agents or Patent Attorneys. We assume that our clients technology has great value, and act accordingly. I hope that this helps and good luck with your invention.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 5/15/2013
    Banner & Witcoff, Ltd. | Ernie Linek
    Maybe your invention can be patented - so long as it is (1) new, (2) useful, (3) not obvious and (4) meets the Section 101 requirement of not covering an "abstract" concept - as some computer based inventions have been found to do recently. Just this month, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the main patent court) held in the Alice Corp. case, that a computer based invention was non-patentable subject matter under Section 101. One judge on the court said this about the decision: The Honorable Judge Moore wrote: "And let's be clear: if all of these claims, including the system claims, are not patent-eligible, this case is the death of hundreds of thousands of patents, including all business method," Your patent application needs to teach how to make and how to use your invention - in sufficient detail so that someone else could make and use the invention - based simply on the written description.
    Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
    Replied: 5/15/2013
    Microtechnology Law & Analysis | Daniel Flamm
    Novel and useful software, business methods, and processes are patentable. Based on what you have said, the best advice would be for you to retain a patent attorney. Having a patent application filed should also add value and enhance your ability to attract investors.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/15/2013
    Sebby Law Office
    Sebby Law Office | Jayne Sebby
    Some online ideas can be patented but many others are only eligible for copyright protection. Talk to a Patent attorney before you submit a patent application to the USPTO. Have everyone you show your idea to sign a nondisclosure agreement to protect your work while in development. Also be sure to get work for hire agreements from all independent contractors you hire so that you own the rights to what they create for you.
    Answer Applies to: Nebraska
    Replied: 5/15/2013
    Shimokaji & Associates
    Shimokaji & Associates | Michael Shimokaji
    You may wish to consider filing a provisional patent application before disclosing your concepts to others and thereafter using a non- disclosure agreement when disclosing your concept to others.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/15/2013
    Tran & Associates | Bao Tran
    You should get patent application as soon as you can to prevent others from copying you. This is important as we move into the First to File era. I would recommend the use of software from called ProvisionalBuilder. Software costs $99 so it is very inexpensive yet guides you to prepare a high quality patent application that one year later you can turn to a lawyer to convert into a utility application for you. A feature summary is at The software helps you organize information, and through your summary description, brings back sample patents in the same field for you to use as examples.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/15/2013
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