Can You Patent a Website? How to Protect Website IP

Can You Patent a Website? How to Protect Website IP     

A lot of effort and commitment goes into developing an online invention to make it viable. The notion that someone can shortcut the success process you painstakingly underwent by copying your output can, therefore, be upsetting. This, then, begs the question of whether a website is patentable.

Sadly, it is not possible to comprehensively patent a website. However, there are aspects of the site you can adequately protect to keep your brainchild from ravenous competitors.

Why it is not possible to comprehensively patent a website

A website is a conglomerate of different cogs with particular functions that come together to give useful output to the end user. There is the content, design aspects, the code that does the crunching and even the user’s computer. This multifaceted nature makes it impossible to patent an entire site, but as can be deduced, it is quite possible to patent individual components.

The conditions a website component has to meet to secure a patent

A patent is only issuable if an object or idea fulfills 3 conditions. First, it must be non-obvious: it cannot be something that someone can easily figure out as a logical step to a process. Then, it must be new – meaning that it has to be a brand-new invention that has never seen the light of day. Finally, it has to be useful by addressing genuine real life problems or by offering a better way of achieving something.

The most viable website patent

With regard to the above conditions, there are 3 issuable patents. A plant, design or utility patent. Considering all the site components, a plant patent is, of course, illogical. A design patent is also inapplicable since it relates to aesthetic and material properties of manufacturable items. Thus, a utility patent stands out as the choicest alternative.

Under a utility patent, as per the USPTO, you can protect processes, items of manufacture, machinery, and compositions of matter. Hence, in the case of websites, only processes qualify as patentable.

How to get a software process patent

To gain a patent, the process you intend to implement in your website must be revolutionary. Moreover, it has to satisfy the two other specifications necessary to qualify. Recently issued software patents have been under the “business methods” umbrella.

To make the process a success, you will need the guidance of a patent attorney. Otherwise, you might spend time and effort in vain tracing a DIY path. Additionally, you will have to take into consideration different factors to affirm that chasing after a patent is the best course of action. For instance, securing a patent may take years, and it will set you back at least $4,000 or more.

Depending on the scenario, it might be wise to simply focus on the implementation of sound business systems rather than chase after bit-part site protection. However, the final decision should only be arrived at after a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis and in-depth deliberations.

Other ways of protecting your website IP

Though patents avail an edge over competitors, chasing them poses a significant risk only surmountable to those with adequate resources. Luckily, there are other less risky and resource-intensive ways of securing site components.

Trademarks

Trademarks will secure your website’s motto, logo, branding, and imagery. In this manner, you will gain a distinct identity in the online marketplace inimitable to competitors and unscrupulous persons.

To get a trademark with minimal hassle, it is advisable to hire a trademarks attorney well versed with all the requirements. Remember, trademarking typical looking logos, mottos, etc., is not a good idea – aim for something that truly stands out.

Copyrights

By default, the author of any piece of text or image retains and owns the copyrights to the created works. The copyright only changes hands if he/she decides to sell the creation. As such, you will legally possess copyrights to all original, authentic, or purchased site content. You will be pleased to know that copyrights also apply to the source code.

Though you will by default own the copyrights, it is a good idea to register them with the US Copyright Office to give them more weight. Copyrights can last for a lifetime or more.

Trade secrets

Trade secrets offer another way to protect the innovative aspects of your website. Although protecting trade secrets is a chore – as is protecting common secrets in real life – it is possible to pull off the feat. Non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements provide a way to do just that. The Coca-Cola recipe stands out as one of the best-kept trade secrets.

Final thoughts

Undoubtedly, seeking IP protection, especially for commerce sites, stands as one of the surefire ways of ensuring long-term value. Furthermore, it offers a way of gaining an advantage over the competition and maintaining a vanguard position.

That said, to realize comprehensive protection wherever applicable, it would be a wise to hire an expert lawyer in matters relating to intellectual property – ideally, on a retainer arrangement.

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