Can You Sell your Idea Without Patent Protection?

Can I sell My idea without a patent? 


Hi, my name is Craige Thompson. I'm a patent attorney.
And many entrepreneurs ask me, can you sell your idea without patent protection? Well, the short answer is, of course, you can.
But the question then becomes, how can you profit from your idea when you sell it? And so, I'd like to run through four alternatives to patent protection so that you can make a fully informed decision before you do that.

rely on strengths

The first alternative to patenting your invention before you sell it is an easy one.
It's if your idea is not even patentable, then just forget patents and just go ahead and sell it. Just rely on whatever strengths you might already have in terms of your distribution channel, or your marketing advantage, or just being the first mover.

trade secret protection

The second alternative to patenting your invention before you sell it is trade secret protection. Now, if you want to sell an unpatented invention in the form of a secret formula or a secret process, so long as it's not easily reverse engineered, you can do that; but you got to keep in mind, it's only trade secret protected so long as it's a secret.


Once somebody else invents it independently or figures it out some other ways, such as your competitor reverse engineering your own product, then they can compete with you.

And that's it. You've got no recourse.

just sell it

Now, third, you could just take your patentable idea and just sell it without patent protection. But recognize that when you do that, you are giving up your control over who could make, use, sell, or import it into this country, for a United States patent.

So, for example, if you share your idea with a manufacturer, or an investor, or an independent contractor, they could take your idea and run with it.

non-disclosure agreements

Fourth, non-disclosure agreements don't really close the gap when you're trying to sell your idea without patent protection because they're not a solid answer, either. Because they're difficult to enforce. Non-disclosure agreements usually devolve into a “he said-she said” debate and they're really just hard to enforce.

We went through those alternatives to patent protection pretty quickly.
So what it comes down to for you is whether a patent makes good business sense for you at this particular time.


I've helped thousands of inventors and entrepreneurs over the last 20 years make that fully informed decision. And if you'd like my help, just click on the link on this page, and schedule your patent needs assessment.
I'll talk to you soon.



Craige Thompson, JD, EE, PE, Patent Attorney

Craige Thompson JD, EE, PE Patent Attorney Author of Amazon #1 Best seller, Patent Offense



A great service. Very approachable

A great service. Very approachable, helpful and quick to understand complex issues for our patent applications.