Good ideas can have great value. However transforming an idea into property that can be sold or licensed is problematic. It will be appreciated that sales and licensing of patents are the common ways to document valuable ideas that can be transform into cash. How can an idea be converted into a patent? What is required for a patentable idea?
Ideas to Knowhow
Typically, ideas must first be transformed into patentable knowhow. An idea may be that it would be wonderful to build a set of birdlike wings to allow people to fly. However this idea is worthless unless it can be shown how the wings could be built and how the wings could be operated to allow human flight.
In other words, the idea must be developed to show that it can accomplish the desired task. Sometimes this can be shown by building a prototype or “bench model” that shows how the idea will work.
Again, transforming the idea into saleable property is problematic.
Inventions are sold and licensed. Inventions are often documented via patenting to create a separable and distinct asset that can be sold or licensed. See my blog of Requirements for a Patentable Invention. See also my blog What not to before you File.
An invention is more than an idea. To achieve a patentable invention, there must be two steps. First, there is the idea, i.e, the conception of a thought of how something can be made or performed easier, cheaper, faster, etc. There must also be a second step, i.e. reduction to practice. Reduction to practice is showing that the idea will work or accomplish the intended purpose, i.e., building something easier, cheaper, faster, etc. Reduction to practice can be accomplished by building a prototype or working model.
Reduction to practice
It should be understood that a prototype or working model is not a finished product in final form ready for sale or even use. It is something that merely shows that the idea can accomplish the intended purpose.
Both the conception of the idea and the demonstration that the idea works (reduction to practice) are required for there to be a patentable invention.
Building a prototype can also be problematic.
However, the US patent laws allow a way around the prototype step. A working model or prototype is reduction to practice (the second step of achieving a patentable idea). However the US patent law provides for constructive reduction to practice.
Constructive reduction to practice
Constructive reduction to practice is written documentation that will show a person skilled in the art how the idea will work. This demonstration must be sufficient to show how the invention can be made and operated. For the idea of building wings that will allow humans to fly, it is suggested that constructive reduction to practice would comprise a description of an elongated wing like structure having a curved upper surface sufficient that when air passed over the surface, the pressure would be reduced and lift would be achieved. The construction to practice could include a description of an engine that would propel the structure through the air to create sufficient air movement over the wing structure to create the necessary lift to allow the structure with motor to rise above the ground surface.
Therefore, a written description can be sufficient to achieve patent protection without having to build an airplane.
The written description has to be sufficient to allow the person skilled in the art, e.g., an aeronautical engineer, to understand and build/operate the structure. This is “teaching enablement”. If you have read my other posts, you will recognize that teaching enablement is the sole requirement of a provisional application. Filing a provisional application for patent is the vehicle I consistently recommend to inventors to document and protect their idea. A provisional application can be the vehicle to monetize an idea.