Everyone has great ideas! Don’t let somebody else get credit for or profit from your brilliant brainstorm or idea. It is important to safeguard your ideas and inventions, even if you can not act on them quite yet. The right kind of coverage depends on the nature of your idea or design. Outlined below are the general protections available. Be sure to see which of the legal devices below best suits your entrepreneurial efforts.
More importantly – take action! I can’t tell you how many friends, family members or acquaintances I have met over the years that have great ideas that are worth millions of dollars. But they don’t take ACTION. They find a few years later that their idea was actually brought to market with great success. Don’t be one of them! You might be afraid, concerned, not sure how to do it….but without the first step, there will never be a second.
What it protects: An original work, published or not published, that has been recorded in a lasting form. Material protected by copyright includes books, plays,musical compositions, works of art, architectural plans and computer programs.
How to file: Apply directly to the U.S. Copyright Office (find forms and info at copyright.gov) the process is simple for most works. Just remember to include a copy of the material you’re seeking to protect with your application.
What it costs: $35 if you apply online; $45 if by mail
What it protects: A new or improved and useful process, machine or product
How to file: Apply to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (uspto.gov). To boost your chances of approval few patents get the nod—describe the invention in detail and hire a patent attorney to edit your application after you’ve drafted it. Not sure your product will make it in the market? File a provisional patent, which covers your idea for a year and save about 80% in fees.
What it costs: $800 to $1,000 for a provisional patent; $4,000 to $5,000 for a full patent
What it protects: A word,name, symbol, motto or other distinctive form of identification associated with a product or service. Examples include the Coca-Cola script and the name Windex.
How to file: Apply to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office; this is often done in conjunction with a patent application. Names that are generic or descriptive—”cars” for an auto company—are less likely to get approved. File online at uspto.gov.
What it costs: $325 online, $375 by mail
Here is a handy infographic from Entrepreneur Magazine showing how to conduct a formal and thorough patent search:
If have any questions after that let us know and we would be glad to you help out!
Andrew Van Valer is a serial entrepreneur, noted real estate investor, author, speaker, coach and Managing Partner of SlingshotSV and writes on a variety of subjects related to startups, small business growth, acceleration and leadership.