Patents are much more than just securing an invention for a physical product. Ideas, like a way to run a business or service, is also patentable under certain circumstances. It is especially viable to file a patent of a business method involves state of the art technology or software to go along with it.
Big Business Needs Big Ideas
While corporations would prefer any in-house means to formulate better business strategies, buying or leasing method inventions are common in this realm. The USPTO is quite strict about vetting business method patents so that they have tangible results, which is why purchasing the rights to these methods is quite secure.
Business method patents also must involve some sort of equipment, whether it is a new invention or not. This patent type does not include software, although software in combination with equipment and a method may be a part of the picture.
Utility Patent Application
The USPTO has laid out the utility patent application so that a business or individual may file their method within a relatively straightforward process. A process application must be thoroughly written and mainly explain how your method interacts with certain technology. These process applications are manually reviewed, interviews may be conducted and other legal may be taken. There are services that help with patent applications for those that are inexperienced.
Of course, time and money are involved with the patent process as an attorney and other advisors may need to be hired. Also, there are application fees along the way, even if your patent fails to get approved. This acts as a barrier for entry to the patent system, which can be advantageous to keep out random patent trolls.
Is Your Idea Ready to be Patented?
Taking the idea from the conceptual phase to something intrinsic is a huge leap, and may not be so obvious depending on the industry. Your idea may be not quite developed, not ready for the current industry, or simply poorly laid out for other people to comprehend. The patent office will want a packaged idea to be well defined so that there is no grey legal area.
One of the reasons why inventors will turn to consultants is for laying out a defined business application for their invention. You may need another set of brains to think of up how your idea can be applied to a business concept, especially from someone that knows the industry.
Searching the online database should always be a priority if you think about taking your invention concept to the market, considering that there are already lots of conflicting ideas. Just using the USPTO integrated search engine will save you lots of money if your idea, or a similar one, is already registered.
There is no guarantee at profitability when registering a business method, but there is always big potential if the industry is large enough. Large industries themselves have made a business out of buying and leasing patents, so your idea may just be worth a fortune.