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How do I protect two new ideas for getting fit? The work outs themselves are, for the most part, common practice in gyms during floor routines, aerobic classes, and step workouts. Only the surfaces on which I do them are my own answer to how to stay in shape, when it is painful to work out in/on conventional environments/surfaces.

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First off, don't disclose any more details about your ideas on the Internet. Also, don't disclose the idea to others without a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) in place first. Almost any public disclosure can be used as Prior Art, which is one way to invalidate patents. You need to keep this information confidential until you have a judicial disclosure (patent, trademark or copyright filing).

Secondly, document your ideas in as much detail as possible. Collect anything you have written down, sketched on paper or napkins, whatever you have. If the documents have dates on them, even better. Write up any additional details and bring the whole bundle to a Notary to get them notarized.

Now the legal work begins. You had marked your question only with the copyright tag, but I'm going to take it a step further so you know what your other options are.

A copyright is good, especially if you have manuals, instructional videos or books. If you additionally have a name and logo, you will want to also seek a Trademark.

If you also have equipment and a method of using the equipment, you may want to additionally seek a combination of Design Patents and/or Utility Patents. There were some questions recently about the games "4 Square in the Air" and "9 Square in the Air", which covered variations of an outdoor game with two extremely simple Design Patents for the equipment and one Utility Patent for the game(s) itself. I honestly don't know how well those would hold up to infringement, but they were all granted and should be instructive examples for you. Of course, read these from the perspective of what can go wrong if claims are written too narrowly.

For a Utility Patent (this might cover something like equipment and a method of using the equipment) you can use your collected and notarized documents to file a Provisional Patent Application, which doesn't cost much (compared to a full application), doesn't publicly disclose the information, gets you a Priority Date (important!) and gives you one year from filing to complete your Patent Application.

Finally, and this may the most important advice, hire a reputable patent attorney or patent law firm to prepare, file and offer legal advice. This is not something you should do on your own. Yes, it costs money to hire an expert, but they will prevent you making mistakes (and there are so many mistakes that can be made).

Also note that since the Bilski Decision in 2010 you may not be able to get "abstract methods of playing" claims patented unless they are tied directly to hardware/equipment, as described in this other answer. This likely also ties to exercise, which means your equipment would need to be specified in a non-abstract manner.

I hope this has been helpful. Feel free to ask additional questions on the process, but do not disclose additional details about your ideas.

  • yes, thank you, the information you provided is very useful. I have ben through the provisional process on another one of my many more tangible ideas. I was able to consult with a reputable patent attorney on that one, I hope he remembers me, recognizes this latest creations potential, and will assist me again. I am excited that I have a direction to go with this, and will begin implementing your advice, first thing tomorrow. thank you again for your prompt and very helpful information!! – Laurie Jul 21 '15 at 8:44
  • Sorry I am still learning to navigate here.So when you say feel free to ask questions.. just let me know if I take freedom too far. When you say don't tell anyone.. do you mean ANYONE... or anyone who could or would steal my ideas? – Laurie Jul 21 '15 at 21:07
  • Any equipment being used are all products already on the market for consumers. but my method of using them is completely original, and the benefits are numerous. I have no video, no manual. I have undeniable proof of the results by how I look and feel. so right now I have technically 4 great ideas. The one I could put on shelves, lets say is a new shovel, the actual spade part is original as well as the handle, so I believe that would be two patents correct? – Laurie Jul 21 '15 at 21:26
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    I highly recommend reading through the Tour and referring to the Help Center for general best practices in this community. If you still have unanswered questions about how to use this site or how to ask questions for specific topics, feel free to ask those questions in the Ask Patents Meta community, which would be ecstatic to get site feedback from new members. – vallismortis Jul 21 '15 at 23:14
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    By "not disclosing", I mean not publishing or posting details about your invention in public forums (this one included), and not disclosing the idea to others without some guarantee of confidentiality (such as a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement) prior to having a legal Priority Date or a filed application, trademark, and/or copyright. Refer to this question for more information. – vallismortis Jul 21 '15 at 23:22
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Make a complete comprehensive list of unique features you think are in your idea. Explain your idea in as much detail as possible, and explain the field you are inventing in. Take this and file a provisional patent application. This counts as a patent pending, and you have a year to turn this over into a full patent application. Provisional Patent will cost the average man $65, or a successful one $130. It is valid for a year, and is then converted into a full patent or lost.

Avoid the Inventing companies. They are in the business of getting you some kind of patent, even if worthless. They will take $10-25K from you for their efforts. They will show you 2-3 people who they helped. They are in the patent selling business, and this is where they make $.

Find someone who has successfully invented a product that has been on the market and ask them for their patent attorney's name.

This is a tough business, and it is dirty. Lots of scams, lots of people who are in the business of taking your money and not getting you to market.

Avoid design patents. So many of these companies want to get you this so they can say they got you a real patent. Almost every design patent is easy to design around, and not worth the paper it is printed upon.

Get a trusted patent attorney, and he can help you find the right help, and guide you. I have 47 patents and 44 are utility patents. I know what I am talking about. The other three design patents were used by top designers in their product design and protecting the look of the part was necessary.

Hope this helps

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    If were me, I'd consult with a patent attorney of agent before submitting a provisional patent application. A bad provisional can significantly hurt your chances of obtaining a good patent. – Eric Shain Jun 2 '17 at 23:23
  • I have to disagree strongly regarding design patents, based on the practicalities of IP law. Being able to defend, or contest, a patent, whether utility or design, is largely a function of funds to undertake expensive legal action. If this inventor is successful, or secures powerful backers, they could certainly make trouble for anyone looking to infringe or "design around", especially if the potential infringers don't have sufficient funds for the legal fight. I wouldn't underestimate the "prophylactic" value of a patent or even a patent pending. – DukeZhou Feb 2 '18 at 19:43
  • Props for your warning about patent mills, though. Most patent attorneys I've spoken to have made a strong case that using these inventing companies will, at best, result in a valueless application, and, at worst, severely harm the inventor's chances at securing a grant. – DukeZhou Feb 2 '18 at 19:45

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