Protecting Your Inventions and Ideas
If you're an inventor, you need more than copyright protection.
In fact, copyrights only protect actual works in their uniqueform; they do not protect the ideas behind the work. What you needis patent protection. Patents available to you will vary, based onthe type of invention you have and the length of time yourinvention will be covered. For example, two main patents--plantpatents and utility patents--protect your invention for 17 years,at which point they become open for use or reproduction in thepublic domain. (Actually, an act of Congress can extend a plantpatent, but such acts are rare.) Design patents--the most commontype--range in protection length from three to 14 years (generallythree, seven or 14 years).
Any person who "invents or discovers any new and usableprocess, machine manufacture or composition of matter, or any newand useful improvements thereof, may obtain a patent." Yourspecific type of patent will depend on your invention.
Excerpted from Starting a Home-based Business