From idea to patent: When does an idea become a reality?

An interesting ruling out of the Northern District of California raised an important question for business owners throughout the United States, including here in Georgia: When does an idea become a reality and therefore become patent eligible?

Ideas for inventions, processes, products and more are often the backbone of many businesses and can be valuable intellectual property when they become fully developed. However, as the recent ruling illustrates, securing protection for an idea is not possible under current U.S. intellectual property laws, a fact that can raise issues before and during litigation. 

At look at the cases and the law

As outlined in several articles, including one published by the North Carolina Record, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers recently granted a motion to dismiss several lawsuits filed by Cellspin Soft Inc. against several other companies including GoPro, Nike, Fitbit and Garmin.

Cellpin alleged that the companies named in the lawsuits had infringed on a patent it sought for a "method of utilizing a digital data capture device (such as a digital or video camera or wearable fitness tracker) in conjunction with a Bluetooth enabled mobile device for publishing data and multimedia content on one or more websites automatically or with minimal user intervention."

As Judge Rogers pointed out in her ruling, Cellspin's alleged patents were for "an abstract idea" of a method which, under current U.S. intellectual property laws, is not patent eligible. Current law clearly states that an idea for a method must include a "complete description" of the subject matter -- a description that must be as detailed and fully-formed as a physical invention. As Judge Rogers explained in her ruling, Cellspin failed to show sufficient transformation of the "claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application."

The lesson to businesses

While patent law does allow individuals and businesses to patent methods and processes, the ruling above showcases how well-defined methods and processes need to be, but how important it is to have a skilled intellectual property lawyer in your corner to help ensure you're following the law correctly.

The line between an idea and reality boils down to how refined the idea is. Without this important distinction, individuals and businesses could find themselves in possession of valuable intellectual property they cannot protect nor recover damages for in the event someone else uses that idea. 

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