Protecting Ideas

Q: I am in the process of trying to patent my idea. What are some good Websites that can help me?
–D. Harris, Via the Internet

Q: It’s not easy to safeguard your ideas in the business world. You should keep in mind that a patent cannot be obtained to protect a mere idea or suggestion. Laws protect inventions with patents, creative works with copyrights, and trade names with trademarks. However, ideas that relate to new machines, chemical compositions, a unique process, or design can come under patent protection.

To protect your idea, the best bet is to use a nondisclosure agreement. Also called a confidentiality agreement, an NDA is a contract in which parties promise to protect the confidentiality of secret information that is disclosed during employment or another type of business transaction. Go to www.nolo.com, a Website designed to help people handle their own everyday legal matters. Use Nolo.com’s search engine to find the section about “nondisclosure agreements.”

If you have an invention that needs patent protection, then go to the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Website, www.uspto.gov, for guidance. This site offers basic facts about patents, how to get one, and a list of registered patent attorneys and agents.

Also, consulting with a reputable patent lawyer can help make your invention a marketable reality. The attorney will take a preliminary look at your design and let you know if it is patentable.

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