Can you patent a concept for a website? 6 Answers as of February 24, 2011

My friends and I have come up with a really cool idea for a website, but we haven't found someone to help us build it yet. We are worried that we could end up getting the idea stolen from us by a programmer, since we'd essentially tell them all the ideas in order for them to build it. Can we patent the concept for a website? If not, what can we do to protect our idea?

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DANIEL NESBITT | Hasse & Nesbitt
Yes, certain concepts concerning a website can be patentable, provided they are within patentable statutory guidelines, and are new, non-obvious and have usefulness. Filing a patent application before exposing it to third parties is always best. But if you must proceed early with a programmer, only submit the information under a non-disclosure agreement, such that the programmer must maintain the confidentiality. I recommend you work with a patent attorney concerning the details.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Replied: 2/24/2011
Devon & Associates
Devon & Associates | Marcia A. Devon
You may be able to patent your website if it has some new technology. Otherwise, you would want to protect your website and the software creating the website with a Copyright registration. Copyright applications are substantially less expensive than patents.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/17/2011
Handal & Morofsky LLC
Handal & Morofsky LLC | Anthony H. Handal
Generally, there are a number of ways to protect a website idea. Patents may be possible to protect the functionalities of a website. Data structures, functional processing steps and connectivity to other systems may support utility patents. Copyrights and design patents may cover the look and feel of a website. Trademark and trade dress elements of a website can also be protected. You should consult an experienced intellectual property attorney experienced in all these areas with the details of your conception to work out a plan to protect your work.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 2/15/2011
Michael M. Ahmadshahi
Michael M. Ahmadshahi | Michael M. Ahmadshahi, Ph.D., Esq.
If the website performs novel and non-obvious tasks, then it might be patentable in which case you should file at least a provisional patent application and then have programmers write the software.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 2/14/2011
Malhotra Law Firm, PLLC
Malhotra Law Firm, PLLC | Deepak Malhotra
Absolutely, you can patent a novel website. You can patent the sequence of screens, sequence of menus, the interface, anything that is novel. It is hard to guess exactly what you have in mind so it is difficult to say with certainty that you have something that would be considered to be non-obvious by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Talk to a patent attorney with experience with websites and software. It is important that the patent application be drafted so as to minimize the risk of being invalidated in a Bilski challenge. Bilski is a Supreme Court case that found a specific business method patent to be invalid. Hire an attorney who has experience in the software area.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 2/14/2011
    Mark S. Hubert PC
    Mark S. Hubert PC | Mark Hubert
    You cannot patent an idea but you can patent the embodiment of that idea. So yes you can patent the software but I would suggest that you look into copyrighting the code. It is a lot cheaper. $40 vs $10,000.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 2/14/2011
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