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Douglas G. Verge
Phone: 603.627.8119
Fax: 603.641.2351
dverge@sheehan.com
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Can I protect my idea simply by copyrighting it?

Monday, December 31, 2007
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A commonly held [mis]conception is that a novel idea can be protected simply by registering the copyright in the idea. Actually, copyright law protects only the way the idea is expressed, not the idea itself. In reality, there are only two ways to protect an idea: (1) keep it secret or (2) obtain a patent. If an idea (including concepts, methods or formulas) is not easily reverse engineered or if it has only a short useful life, keeping the idea secret usually is preferable. On the other hand, if the idea is easily reverse engineered or if it has a relatively long useful life, consideration should be given to obtaining a patent. When "shopping" an idea to a third party it is imperative that an appropriate nondisclosure agreement is entered into, not only to protect the idea from appropriation by the third party, but also to protect potential patent rights from being lost through inadvertent disclosure or offering of the idea (or invention).