Login to Business.com

Social Login
Login with Your Account
Forgot Password?
New to Business.com? Join for Free

Join Business.com

Sign Up with Your Social Account
Create an Account
Sign In

Use of this website constitutes acceptance of the Terms of Use, Community Guidelines, and Privacy Policy.

How can I get a patent or copyright for a business idea?

I am planning to create an app and website which will help the education system. How can I get a patent or copyright of this app idea or it’s functionality before it’s released into the market?

Answer This Question
Expert Answers
Sort by Date Sort by Votes

Dear Sannala,

Getting a patent on software in the US in the year 2015 is difficult. Google "Alice" and "supreme court" to learn more on recent changes in the law. I'm not saying you shouldn't try, but the cost/risk is discouraging.

You can copyright software. Copyright protection in software will allow you to take action against others who copy your code, but it will not allow you to protect your idea from others who write their own code to copy your idea. Only patents can protect ideas. See: http://copyright.gov/circs/circ61.pdf

You can also copyright screenshots of the app, which again serve to protect you from anyone copying the app rather than just the idea.

Good luck,

I'm with the Supreme Court on this one. What they were trying to patent was a way to keep a daily ledger of credits and debits, and reconcile that ledger at the end of the day with an original account; used to set the credit balance at the beginning of the day and updated with the new balance at the end.
I fail to see how using a computer to do it is patent worthy, even given that the computers in question need to be specifically programmed to handle the transactions and may have exclusive/proprietary hardware connections between them.
Ledgers have existed in one form or another since cuneiform (a REAL invention).
Many - if not most - software patents are spurious attempts to patent prior art or blatantly obvious processes like this one to erect barriers to market entry or get paid a ransom.
I applaud the Supreme Court for putting an end to the racket.


An issued patent could take 3+ years if you can get one at all. But you can file for a "provisional patent" tonight. There are different thoughts on the right way to file a provisional. At one end of the spectrum it comprises a detailed disclosure, formal drawings and even some claims - essentially a "real" patent but lacking complete references to prior art. At the other end of the spectrum, you just write a full disclosure of your idea, include informal drawings, don't worry about format or structure or claims and file the mess as a "provisional patent." Once you've filed a provisional you can claim "patent pending". The cost for a micro entity is $65 if you do it yourself. That starts a one year clock ticking and then you have to file a non-provisional patent in accordance with all of the rules and formats. The non-provisional draws on the info in the provisional.

But you really need a patent agent or attorney or at least a book to guide you. Start by buying "Patent It Yourself" by Pressman and visiting the USPTO site for more details - http://www.uspto.gov

Copyright is easy. Go here to register: http://www.copyright.gov/

**Caveats - I am neither an attorney nor a patent agent, just a guy who has been working with inventions for over 25 years and has filed patents on my own, experienced numerous knockoffs and been through hard core patent litigation.


The answers here are generally very much on point.
. -To perhaps overly simplify, Copyright is limited to preventing others from -COPYING- creative aspects rather than preventing others from -MAKING, USING or SELLING- functional aspects, which is reserved for Patents.
. -The advice is also reasonably correct in that you can NOT patent an idea, and the patenting of software (& particularly business methods) is made more difficult by holdings such as in "Alice". It's also more complex to ASSERT a patent due to 3rd party actions intended to invalidate your patent claims under the America Invents Act. So you'll need to determine what it is that you have & seek to protect, what your goals are in seeking to protect it, & the extent to which the protection might meet your goals.
. -I would DISAGREE, however, as to the provisional "patent"; I've never heard of one. Yes, you CAN prepare & file a simpler, provisional application and get a FILING DATE on what you disclose in it. The application also won't be examined for patentability -only properly meeting formalities. But you'll have to "perfect" the provisional APPLICATION by filing a NON-provisional application within a year, and the provisional application filing date (or "priority date) does NOT cover new substance in the NON-provisional application that wasn't also disclosed in the provisional application (referred to as "New Matter").
. -But again, this is a simplification and you should meet with a registered Patent Attorney to at least discuss things relating to the Patent process. The same Attorney or other expert(s) might also help you with moving from your "idea" to a patentable invention and, assuming they have related experience, how to seek valuable current\future protection of a currently\prospectively valuable invention.


Yes, just protecting your idea is the hard part. You can copy right and patent anything, but that does not stop an international identity from coming right in with more money to push there product ahead of yours. Ideas are stolen everyday and unless you have deep pocket or a ton of documentation to prove this is your idea. You could be in court for 5 to 10 years and by then the idea could die down and maybe you may see some change in your pocket.

Best bet, find that partner (software giant) that has the deep pocket and lawyer on call.


Various aspects of app and website can be protected by combination of patent and copyright. Technical aspects (utility) can be protected under patents and source code, look & feel can be done by copyright. The patent has to be filed before public launch. Exact strategy will depend upon type of app / website & business goals. You can read more here: http://www.advocaterahuldev.com/patent-protection-mobile-smartphone-applications-apps/


To get started with the patenting process, review the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website here: http://www.uspto.gov/patent; and to view the copyright registration process, review its website and many free downloadable circulars here: http://www.copyright.gov/title17.
Then, if you are serious about protecting your intellectual property work, assuming you have protectable work, you should consult an intellectual property attorney.


I agree with Todd Sullivan's answer concerning the negative impact of Alice and its progeny cases on "software invention" patent applications. The USPTO has issued a recent Guidance as to the factors that its examining personnel should consider when evaluating software-based method patent applications. You can copyright software but sometimes it may also be desirable to retain certain portions of the software as a trade secret. I suggest you consult with an IP attorney in your geographical area who handles patent and other areas of IP law to get a good understanding of your options and the associated risks.


Getting patents is a long process and requires getting the right patent attorney. The costs can range from $5,000-$20,000 dollars depending on the complexity of the intellectual property you are trying to protect. Make sure you do it the right way if you go down this path. Copyrights for concepts, ideas or designs can be done much cheaper and easily and you can do it yourself on LegaZoom or Rocket Lawyer. I would do the copyright right away and then see if you have enough to proceed to a patent to protect any unique intellectual property that you might create.


You cannot patent an idea. Once you get the app designed and functional you can seek a software patent. You can trademark a name for the app with an intent to use.

Business ideas are not patentable or can be copyrighted. To get a patent you need to have a unique methodology, process or similar uniqueness. A new kind of turbo charger may be patentable, but the idea to create it cannot be patented.


create the partner program when official partnering with you is much easier to make revenue than stealing of your idea, the more partners you will have the less place for those who want to get some part not fairly

Are you sure you want to report this content?


Reset Your Password

Enter your email address and we'll send you an email with a link to reset your password.