How To Patent An Algorithm

D'vorah Graeser

You’ve spent countless hours writing an algorithm to solve a big problem. You’ve poured your heart into it. Spent your free time polishing it. Developing a game-changing solution. 

But there’s something holding you back.

I’m sure you don’t want anybody to steal or copy your algorithm. But, how can you protect it?

Can you patent an algorithm? And, if so, how?

The short answer: no, you can’t patent an algorithm, but you can protect it. You can protect the practical use you give it. 

The thing is, algorithms are abstract. And, while they can be crucial for software, they can’t be patented because patent law doesn’t like “abstract.”

Patents are a business tool. They protect your cool tech (like your algorithm) but, more importantly, they protect your market niche and your business model.

Your best option for protecting your algorithm is to patent the business method behind it.

This is how:

Patenting a business method

The USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) permits “business method” patents. This means that you can patent the application of known technology to solve a new commercial problem. 

This doesn’t mean you can just patent any method though, you need to follow certain rules.

First, your business method needs to be implemented in software. It needs to be real, concrete, technical software. You must include a description of the underlying technology you’ll use and how this solves a commercial problem. Abstract ideas or descriptions don’t work.

For example, you can’t patent an app that matches patients with doctors if you’re not capable of explaining exactly how it will work.

Remember, while algorithms themselves can’t be patented because of their abstract nature, software can.

You also need to be careful with the language you use to describe your software. If you use purely business-related words, examiners might think you’re trying to patent an economic process. 

You have to make it very clear that you’re creating an improvement in computer technology.

Think of a balance between technology and commercial problems. How will your technology solve the problem you’re referring to?

Second, the claims need to be properly positioned and structured. The USPTO has specific categories and rules regarding claims. For your software to be patented, you have to follow the rules of the USPTO to have a successful filing process.

Third, your software needs to be novel and inventive compared to things already patented. This is one of the most important parts of patenting software.

To be confident about the uniqueness of your idea, you must conduct a thorough patent search. Reviewing other patents related to your invention can also help you understand the language they’re using. 

You have to describe your idea as a technological invention.

iSearch is the agile business intelligence tool that can help you with this. It’s very intuitive, so all you have to do is describe your software idea as if you were talking to a friend and the tool will do all the heavy lifting.

It will highlight relevant patents and who your most important competitors are. More importantly, it will also give your idea a “uniqueness” score. 

If you still think you won’t be able to get a patent, your best bet is to rethink the practical use behind your algorithm. 

Unfortunately, just saying you’ll use innovative technology for your business isn’t enough to get a patent.

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Adding tech is not enough

You’ve probably come across solutions that claim they have reinvented the wheel. 

If you look closely though, you’ll realize that their invention isn’t as unique as the claim. Most are just re-framed solutions just “packaged” it in a different way. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s not enough to get a patent.

To get a patent you need to explain how you’re going to solve a problem.

For example, just mentioning that a problem will be solved with AI isn’t enough. You need to describe exactly how AI will solve the problem. 

Think it through. 

You have to be able to answer why AI is particularly useful in this context and why not using any other software would solve it. Explain which aspects of AI you’re using and how. If you’re using some elements like AI-generated texts, describe how you’re using them and why they’re important.

You get the picture.

The how in your algorithm is there, let it shine!

Focus on why your solution is better

You should know this without any doubt whatsoever.

Don’t throw in buzzwords to sound innovative. This is the time to show people why and how you’re innovative.

Your software might be better for many reasons. For example, using your algorithm might be helpful to provide a better service at a cheaper price. Maybe it’ll make your software more secure or efficient. Or, perhaps, more reliable.

You could even be opening up an entirely new business area!

What to do next

You’ve already done the hard part, which is coming up with a special algorithm that will be used in a unique way in your software. 

And you’re right, you can’t launch it into the world without protecting it!

Our recommendation is to conduct a patent search and to validate just how unique your idea is as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

It’ll save you a crazy amount of time and money — your most valuable resources.

This is your opportunity to finally launch your idea and change the world.

We’re counting on you!

You have questions.
We have answers.