Will copyright protect my ideas in any way?

Hey guys, I’m a student, and i’m working on my portfolio. I have several ideas that i think would look great in my portfolio. However, I have an impulse not to share them because they would be easy to prototype and demonstrate, probably would have some amount of commercial appeal, would be cheap to manufacture, and do not exist in the marketplace. But since I’m a student, I have no time or capital to pursue development of these ideas. My job right now is to get internships and portfolio views.

I’ve done a little research into patent law, called some attorneys, and it seems like even a provisional utility patent will cost at least several hundred dollars that I don’t have in legal fees. I’m trying to learn how to get the forms and knowledge to file provisional patents myself, but it’s quite a project, and I’m not sure I have the time.

What I’ve done is to copyright diagrams and descriptions of a few of these ideas. Copyright is cheap and can be done easily online. Copyright will not protect me like a patent, because copyright only covers the exact wording and diagrams that you submit, not the idea. My reasoning is that if I were to find out that someone was using one of my ideas, I could extract royalties through a lawsuit or the threat of one. Copyright doesn’t protect the idea, but it proves that I had the idea at a certain point in time. If I filed a copyright on the idea before the other guy filed a patent, wouldn’t this prove prior art and in theory invalidate their patent?

Has anyone here heard of something like this working or would I be trampled in court? Alternatively, does anyone here have experience in filing provisional patents themselves? Is it something that is within the reach of a literate and determined ID student?

Simple answer -no, and don’t bother. First off, I am not a lawyer…

  1. Copyrights are totally different than a patent. A patent describes a functional idea. Copyright is only for written or visual things like text or images. So no copyright could at best mean nobody could reproduce your drawing, but they can make their own. The protection they afford is very narrow. No copyright can defend a patent.

  2. Not to be too harsh, but chances are your ideas isn’t that new. Maybe a new form (that’s a Design patent, again, something different), but a patent requires a novel method/process for providing a certain tangible/functional idea. Very few student projects would do this.

  3. No matter what, any patent/copyright, etc. is only as good as the strength you have to defend it. If you can’t even afford a few hundred for a provisional patent (and from I I know full patents cost more in the 1000’s), there is no way you could afford a lawyer to defend. Lawyers aren’t cheap.

  4. All this aside, any idea is only as good as the ability to make it, get to market, distribute and sell. For a small idea, it’s not worth all that risk so “ideas” tend not to be copied in the way you might think.

  5. Put it in your portfolio. If it’s a good idea, it might help get you a job. Hey maybe one day you can come back to it and take it to market.

also, do a forum search. This topic has been covered several times.


hey, thanks for the quick reply. Yea, I don’t want to sound like I think these ideas are going to be successful the first time anybody sees them. But if I can spend $35 dollars to copyright some jpegs and some text, and it gives me some legal advantage on the off chance somebody makes them in the future, it seems like it would be money well spent.

I don’t think $35 or anywhere near that will do anything for you. Besides, you think China cares about your patents? You’re better off using your good ideas in your portfolio unless you have real plans to use those ideas to start a business.

Once written on your sketch book you own intellectual properties. But also if the same idea is developed at the same time w/o prior notice, it is totally legit. Who gets to patent the idea varies depends on which country you live in, not necessarily the 1st person that thought of the idea neither. And even if you have patent, etc etc, if someone does something with your design overseas then you’re screwed too unless you want to spend a lot of $$ fighting it. This is just the business we’re in. If you’re in school see if you have an IP expert and talk with them for better info.

Everything Rkuchinsky writes is correct. Copyright won’t give you any of the protection you’re looking for.

In addition, if you’re in the US patent law works on the principle of first-to-file. If a company were to copy your ideas and take out patents on them, your proof that you thought of them first means absolutely nothing legally. It’s a bit different in other countries which work on the principle of first-to-invent, but there you have to file patents before the invention has been made public. Again, copyright won’t protect you.

You can protect your idea copyrighting it first. ie you have an idea for a new door handle. you can draw the mechanism and and explain how it works and copyright it. you don’t even have to say it’s a door handle or patent it. the mechanism is the important part. So lets say someone used your idea to design a fridge door. You still got the rights to the idea!

You could have done a simple search on google :smiley:

"The common view on copyright versus patenting is that copyright protects the expression of an idea, while a patent protects the idea itself. We have discussed this extensively in [4]. An intriguing case occurs when both, orthogonal, mechanisms are applicable to protect the same artefact.

A first line of defense is to use copyright to protect the owner of the expression (which is an embodiment of the invention) against IPR violations. A second line of defense is to patent specific ideas.

Since legal procedures involving patents imply significant legal risks and associated costs, it will be preferable to use - in case of a perceived violation - the first line of defense (copyright) whenever possible."

In case of sketches without “expression of the idea” it will be harder, but if you have it copyrighted its better so someone can’t copy it and use it as his/her work.