How Small-Business Owners Can Patent a Great Idea

Throughout history, ingenious and innovative ideas have been copied, or outright stolen. Guglielmo Marconi is credited with inventing the radio, even though it originated from Nikola Tesla. Nowadays it’s easy for a business owner to patent a great idea.

Robert Fulton took the idea for the steamboat engine from John Fitch. Lizzie Magie invented the board game “Monopoly” in 1903, but it was patented by Clarence B. Darrow in the 1930s. Even Apple has been accused of stealing ideas from Google, Microsoft and Samsung.

Instead of letting another party run away with your great ideas and make a fortune, you need to protect your ideas from the get-go.

One of the most popular ways to protect your product is applying for a patent. It’s now easy for a business owner to patent a great idea.

There are three types of patents that can be issued:

  • Utility patents are granted to anyone who invents a new and useful process, the machine, article of manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.
  • Design patents are given to inventors of new, original and ornamental designs for an article of manufacture.
  • Plant patents are granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.

Keep in mind that you technically can not patent a business idea, such as a niche online store or a new chain of themed restaurants. You can, however, patent the method of doing business.

Additionally, be aware that patents are publicly disclosed and that the USPTO does not enforce patents after they are issued — this responsibility is the patent holders.

Finally, a patent is not a trademark, service mark or copyright.

Most importantly, it’s suggested that you seek legal counsel and advice when applying for a patent. Since patents are varied and complex you may end-up spending too much time and money on your patent, along with losing your valuable ideas, if you don’t properly complete the process.

How can a patent benefit your business?

Before you start researching and hiring attorneys, make sure that a patent is the right decision or the right time, for your business. As Shark Tank’s Barbara Corcoran explained in Reddit AMA, entrepreneurs make the mistake of “pissing away money on patents and PR” and not being confident enough.

How to patent a great idea

If you’re positive that your idea falls within the definitions and requirements required to apply for a patent, and you’ve made sure that there are no other previously filed patents, then it’s time to apply for your patent.

When applying for a patent you’ll be required disclose the nature of the invention. You will need to provide a detailed written description as well. You may also be required to submit drawings or renderings.

Keep in mind that patents are only issued to an individual. Not in the name of a group or a company.

Patent applications are subject to a basic fee and additional fees.

  • A search fee
  • An examination fee
  • Issue fee