I have a great concept. Can I patent it?
UPDATED: February 20, 2013
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Patents are protections granted to inventors that prevent others from making or selling an invention. In fact, the original patent application required a working model of the invention along with the application. While modern patents are available for designs, there are no patents available for concepts.
What is a patent?
According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, a patent is "...the grant of a property right to the inventor...that gives the inventor the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling.” Patents are only granted by the US Patent and Trademark office, but must be protected by the owner from infringement. Patents are granted to inventors for inventions, not concepts.
What kinds of patents are available?
There are three types of patents that the US Patent and Trademark Office grants. The first type of patent is a utility patent. According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, this patent is granted to “anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” An example of a valid utility patent would be for someone who invents a new scratch-proof computer disc.
The next type of patent available is a design patent. This patent is available to an inventor who creates a new design for an invention that already exists. For example, Apple Industries is able to obtain a design patent for every unique iPod skin they create, even though the general structure remains the same, because they are patenting the design.
The third type of patent issued is a plant patent. Plant patents are available for anyone who makes and reproduces a new variety of plant. For example, a new rose is created annually for the Rose Bowl Parade. This rose is patented by its inventor under a plant patent.
Is there any way I can protect my concept?
Original works of authorship can be protected with a copyright. So, put your concept on paper and send a copy along with the copyright form to the Copyright Office.