Define your idea

Is your idea patent-worthy?


What makes your idea really special?

Before you embark on your patent journey, you’ll want to clearly define your idea. The goal of defining your idea is to figure out whether or not your idea is patent worthy.

There are four easy steps for you to determine whether your idea is patent-worthy.

Read through this in-depth walk through to learn more.


Why bother defining your idea?

Let’s face the truth: it’s difficult to define your idea, especially when your idea is still in the development phase. Whether you’re inventing a blockchain app or a new protein compound, you still need to be able to define the core of your idea in a clear, concise way.

There are two main reasons why you should sit down and define your idea:

  1. To be able to flawlessly explain your idea to peers, investors, and other startup founders

  2. To help you determine patent-worthiness

Before you even apply for a provisional patent, you should determine whether your idea is worthy of a patent. It’ll save you time and money down the road if you can figure out both the core of your idea and the competitor landscape in the early stages.

  1. Is your idea unique?

  2. Does your idea fall under a patent-worthy category?

  3. How recently was your idea published?

  4. How detailed is your idea?


Is your idea unique?

We hope your idea stands out from the crowd…

By uniqueness, we mean what makes your idea special when compared to the millions of ideas and startups out there. It could be one feature that makes your idea stand out, or it could be a more general reason why you stand out. Regardless, you should be ready to include your uniqueness factor when describing your idea, or else others will assume there’s nothing new about it.
If you’re not sure what makes your idea unique, consider gathering data from customers, asking friends who know your idea well, or pitching your idea in front of startup peers and seeing their reactions.

Action: Write down your idea in 2-3 sentences and pitch it to others to make sure you’re accurately identifying what makes it unique.


Does your idea fall under a patent-worthy category?

If you’re publishing a novel (or not), you should read on…

Unfortunately, if you’re publishing the next Harry Potter series, we have some bad news: a creative work that is solely content-based doesn’t fall into a patent-worthy category. Patent-worthy categories include software, technology, and hardware (which is why you often see big tech companies patenting their ideas). Even if you’re not a tech company, your idea could still fall under a patentable category if it’s a chemical, drug, protein, or mechanical device. As you can see, there is a very broad range of patentable categories, with the only exception being for creative works. If you’re an artist or author, you can consider other forms of protection for your idea, like trademark or copyright, but sadly, you can’t patent your creative work.

Action: Double check to make sure that your idea falls into one of these categories, and you’re good to go!


How recently was your idea published?

Time flies, so be sure to keep track of exactly when you published your idea.

In the US patent process, your idea should have been published no more than 1 year ago. The 1-year countdown clock starts ticking on your idea as soon as you publish, so it’s in your best interest to pay close attention to how long ago you published your idea. If it was more than 1 year ago, then your idea is not patent-worthy.

Action: Keep close track of your idea’s timeline, and when you first published your idea to make sure your idea is still patent-worthy.


How detailed is your idea?

We don’t need all the details, but your idea should be developed to the point of a minimum viable product (MVP).

It's okay if you haven’t fully built out a prototype for your idea, but it helps to be certain that your idea is unique when compared to competitors. In order to determine your idea’s patent-worthiness, you should be able to express your idea on some level of detail to others. Sometimes it can be difficult to condense all of the moving parts of your idea into one description, but this will help you down the road in the provisional patent application process. You will, of course, eventually need to provide details about your idea to patent examiners, who will be interested to know about your idea’s core elements.

Get comfortable defining your idea—you’ll probably need to do it again!

This won’t be the only time that you’re expected to define your idea for others. Every venture capitalist will be interested in your idea’s definition. And, if you’re applying for a provisional patent, every patent examiner will be interested in how you define your idea.

Action: Try to answer the questions: “What makes your idea unique? What is your idea’s advantage over competitors? What is the purpose of your idea?” This will make your provisional patent application much easier, and help you determine whether your idea is, indeed, patent-worthy.


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