Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Has Business Idea: Needs Protection

Birds killing pigs to get eggs?
Another world-changing idea!
Dear Rich: What is the best way to determine if a business idea and its application can be trademarked and or copyrighted? If I determine the application can't be protected, can I protect the name I give the application? The Dear Rich Staff has come up with a lot of great business ideas over the years.  Once we had this idea for a cigaret ring that you could stick your cigaret into so you wouldn't get tobacco-stained fingers. Alas, our prototype was a big failure, almost triggered a mini-conflagration, and was fully abandoned when we decided we didn't need to enable smokers. Then, we had this idea to embed words into kaleidoscopes so that random messages would come up when you turned the viewer. Interesting idea ... but impossible to implement even after buying several books on kaleidoscope construction. Then, we had this idea ... well, you get the picture. Like they say ideas are easy; implementation is tough. So, on the one hand, it's important to consider whether your ideas (or applications) can be protected, and on the other it's often more important to determine if the idea can be commercially implemented. 
Right, you had a question.  Copyrights don't protect ideas, only their expression. So, for example an idea for a software game about angry birds cannot be protected. However, the Angry Birds application that actually performs this task -- and enslaves and distracts millions of healthy minds -- can be protected under copyright law (and patent law if it's novel and not obvious). Names for products and services can usually be protected under trademark law. Here's where you can read more about copyrights, patents, and trademarks.