I have an awesome website idea...how do I protect it (trademark, patent, coypright)?

Hey fellow sitepointers. First of all, I think this is a great community and I’m glad to be back here once again. The help everyone has given me has been tremendous in helping me grow as a designer. :slight_smile:

With that said, I have a website in the works - it’s not like any other idea that anyone else has implemented and I feel that it will grow.

But I want to be the ONLY one who has the rights to this idea.

How do I protect my idea and prevent others from using it and making a copy-cat website?

What do I need to do and how much will it cost me to FULLY protect this idea?

Thanks for your help!


Hey Ryan,

Well unfortunately, you can’t protect just an “Idea”.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright for a good overview of what copyright covers and you’ll see that ideas aren’t protected…

Copyright law covers only the form or manner in which ideas or information have been manifested, the “form of material expression”. It is not designed or intended to cover the actual idea, concepts, facts, styles, or techniques which may be embodied in or represented by the copyright work.



Rave nailed it. Take a look at all of the best ideas out there (Google, D i g g, YouTube, etc.) and you’ll see copycats of all of them. Think of the revenue sites like these generate. Think of the teams of lawyers that represent these large online companies. If there was any possible way for them to prevent others from utilizing their ideas for profit, they would have found it.

Take it in stride. No matter how brilliant you think your idea is, it can be done better. Do what you can with it, and own it the best you can. Stay with it, work on it, and make sure you never give up. YouTube was a great idea too, and they worked hard at it, made sure to never stop working to make it better, it evolved, and then Google bought them for nearly $2 billion.

Dedication to YOUR vision is what leads you to success. If you get caught up with worrying that others might copy your idea or take parts of it, then you’ll lose perspective, lose your direction and it will ultimately hurt your goals. If it’s a good idea, other people will copy it. Period. That’s just how the Internet (heck, how the WORLD) works. Just do your best to make sure that no matter how many people copy the idea, that YOU stay one step ahead of the rest, that YOU always OWN the idea (meaning it’s YOUR passion, you live and breathe it) and don’t let yourself lose your focus. If you can do that you’ll do well.

PS. Why the heck is D i g g censored??

To be able to protect something that is new you need to produce all of the documentation, working models etc required to apply for a patent. An idea by itself cannot be patented without also clearly defining the processes that the idea will use to achieve the end goal. It is those processes that can be patented (provided that they are truly unique).

Given the way that the web actually works it is just about impossible to implement any idea into a working site using methods that are not used by any other site. While you may have a unique combination of those methods to produce your result, there will be millions of other sites using those various methods already, just not in your particular combination. As they already exist and are used by others you will not be able to patent them (or if you somehow succeed in obtaining a patent it will be unenforcable against everyone who can show prior use).

Amazon tried to patent certain methods related to purchasing over the internet but that doesn’t stop millions of other web sites freely using those same methods of allowing people to purchase from their site.

You can trademark your logo and slogan. Your written content is automatically copyright in most countries. It will be just about impossible to prevent others from developing their own code to produce the same results unless you can obtain an enforceable patent (you can stop them copying your actual code which will be protected by copyright but you can’t stop them writing different code to produce the same result without a patent).

The web has been around for long enough that apart from the browser writers adding some absolutely brand new functioning into their browser, there is not really anything that could be considered to be unique enough that it has not been done millions of times before (at least when you look at all the pieces - with enough pieces you can still build something unique but you can’t stop others from copying the idea).

because everybody and his brother kept posting “please oh please oh please won’t you d1gg my luverly web site” requests

As others have said, you cannot protect an idea. With a website there are a lot of things you can protect though.

In the US you can file a patent application to cover business methods. Right now the wait time to get a business method application reviewed by the US Patent Office is approximately 11 years, which is ridiculous. Most business methods are getting rejected these days days unless they are tied to some kind of unique software based computer system that has a structural architecture. You might still want to consider filing a business method application though. Once you file you can tell others and advertise that you have a “patent pending,” which could scare some novice folks away.

You also definitely want to copyright the content you have on your website. Again, in the US, if you have a copyright and someone takes what you have done and publishes it to their website you can simply contact the hosting company, notify them and they will have to take steps to remove the content otherwise they could be liable themselves.

You can also protect your website design and logos through trademark protection.

Good luck.