Service idea... is it patent-able?

First of all, my apologies for the vagueness of this topic.

I’m working on a service idea that I can’t find anyone else doing. Without saying exactly what it is, can I patent a service or process as it pertains to the making of a product, even though the product itself is very common?

I have already told some close friends and employees about it and most agree that it’s a great idea. I’m getting ready to test out the idea, but my fear is that competition (i.e. the “chains”) hears about it and does something similar.

I was told by a friend that I should patent the idea. I have no experience with the patent process, but know it could possibly be lengthy and expensive. But I guess it could protect me in the future and lead to some nice royalties from the competition (wishful thinking).

Here’s a similar scenario… there is a new frozen yogurt shop in my area. It’s all self-service where the customer fills their cup and pays by the ounce. I’ve never seen this before. Is this new service patent-able? Can this new yogurt shop do anything from keeping another shop from doing the same exact thing?

Any info would be helpful.

As far as I know you can patent anything if you have the time and money.

One of my friends dads was once telling me about a friend he has that owns the patent to the idea to turn on your headlights when in a funeral ride with all the cars lined up (not sure if theres a term for that or not). And if I recall, I believe he gets money from the government for using that idea because its now mandatory.

The more important question is do you have the cash to enforce the patent?..Lawyers are not cheap and you need lawyers working on your behalf every time some violates your patent…Good luck…

Looking at the web it looks like this wouldn’t be patent-able.

I found this good definaition (its from the UK but I bet its similar world wide)

http://www.ipo.gov.uk/whatis/whatis-patent.htm

text reproduced:
[i]
A patent protects new inventions and covers how things work, what they do, how they do it, what they are made of and how they are made. It gives the owner the right to prevent others from making, using, importing or selling the invention without permission.

Your invention must:

* be new
* have an inventive step that is not obvious to someone with knowledge and experience in the subject
* be capable of being made or used in some kind of industry
* not be:

  a scientific or mathematical discovery, theory or method

  a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work

  a way of performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business

  the presentation of information, or some computer programs

  an animal or plant variety

  a method of medical treatment or diagnosis

  against public policy or morality.[/i]

I don’t think a service is an ‘invention’ - in fact it would look like this would be sprecifically not patentable as t is a way of performing or doing business.

If you look around the business world I can’t think of a single process (the process itself) which doesn’t produce a unique product which is protected. I may be wrong but would normally be the end result as well as the production process itself rather than just the process.

My only advice about patents is that this is a huge money area - it will cost you a lot to process any patent application and as Royster says to enforce it. The big 3 have a lot of money and if they really like the idea then they will find an iteration of it.

If you can’t patent it…can’t ideas be copyrighted?

I’ve heard that you can simply mail yourself a letter with the idea inside, and once you get the letter back, NEVER open it, and keep it should someone ever copy your idea…you then have the sealed copyright claim with dates to when you first conceived the idea to it?

Copyright refers to written, artistic or musical work rather than invetions.

To copywrite or patent there has to be a very clear definition of what is being protected which is why it takes such a long time and is such an expensive process.

And again the key point to this is how you protect your copywrite or patent - just because you have one doesn’t actually stop anyone doing the same. We have a large cinema group who uses a trade marked name for a product belonging to a Big 3 here - has it stopped then using it? No - not until the lawyers get involved.

So if it is a dead end, let us know this idea.

No the self serve idae is not paten-able. For example someone came up with the idea for Take and Bake pizzas but guess what anyone can do take and bake… what about self serve checkouts there are lots of companies like home depot walmart etc.

Trust me the government isnt going to pay the guy anything just cause people have to turn their headlights on in a funeral

The only way this works is if you have sent your idea to someone and they use that idea. If you just have an idea and mail it to yourself and someone alse comes up with the same idea to bad for you cause they didnt steal it in fact they didnt know you had it! You would have to prove that you sent it to the person whom you are saying tstole it

nah - if it were that easy then everyone would do it - if you have a) something to protect that is able to be protected and b) you have the means to protected it - then get a patent or copyright (dependant on what it is you want to protect). If you don’t then you ain;t going to be able to protect it - envelope or no envlope! And the simpel fact it is that even when you do patent or protect something people will always be able to alter the product slightly in or to avoid the patent - there are so many examples of unique products which low and behold a few years later theres simplier in the market place.

Believe me, I was skeptical too. But the guy that told me is like 75 years old and has no reason what so every to lie to me about that. I’ll fact check him one day. And if the guy’s not getting paid, he definitely has a patent for it…

Dude, you are really injuring our opinion of you with this one.

lol… I’m just going with what the old man said. I truthfully don’t know whether I believe it or not. I dont see a reason for the old man to lie about something like that. We were talking about patenting an idea and he brought that up.

Look it up online. I found my grandpa’s duck decoy patent online.

I think it’s freepatentsonline.com or something like that.