Often, people falsely believe that you can not patent or protect a business idea or a business process. This belief is incorrect, patenting business methods, processes and concepts can be validly protected by patents in many countries around the world. However, the patent application needs to be filed prior to any disclosure of your idea or concept.
There are a few strategies that can be employed to protect your process or method and some of these strategies don’t require a patent application to be filed:
Ways to protect your process:
a) Reduce your process to writing –This is probably one of the most important steps or methods of protecting an invention. You need to clearly identify the process. You can do this by making a flowchart detailing all of the important steps and decisions needed in the process. Further, the document detailing your process needs to be dated and demonstrates clearly the date of the invention of your process. This identification of your process will aid your business in marketing your invention. Additionally, even if you don’t file a patent application, it will allow you to accurately record the date of invention and thereby protect you against third party patent infringement for patents filed after your date.
b) Protect confidentiality – all important internal business documents should be marked and stamped confidential. Make sure that any documents detailing your process and system including flow charts are marked confidential. You also need to ensure that suppliers to your business have agreed in their contracts to maintain confidentiality of your process and agree not to disclose or use your confidential information.
c) Claim Ownership of Process – make sure you have written documentation that demonstrates that you own the intellectual property in your Process. All contractors should sign agreements whereby thereby their intellectual property is assigned to your business. This is very important for IT startups where a third party developer has been used for coding of websites or server applications.
d) Trade Marks – protecting your process through Brand Strategy. Often customers associate a business process with a brand and you need to take steps early to protect your brand. This easiest way of achieving this is to file trade mark applications. These applications can be filed in Australia and then later filed overseas when your business extends outside of Australia.
e) Patenting of Business Process – Patenting of business processes can be achieved in Australia and overseas. It is critical, that a strategy be developed before disclosing your process to third party outside of a confidential environment. Initially, we usually recommend filing provisional patent applications in Australia followed by overseas applications in important jurisdictions (also only in jurisdictions that accept business process patents). Additionally, it is useful to note that the Australian Innovation Patent Application can be used to reduce the regulatory hurdles of getting patent protection in Australia.