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Can I protect an educational method? And is the answer is yes, then how?

South Gate, CA |
Filed under: Education law

I do have an education method for kids and I would like to present it in the school system, but I do not want to be copied or stolen by other. I develop it and i believe it is better approach to the kids and will give better results than current one. My question is, how I can protect it?

Attorney Answers 4


You should discuss your idea with an IP attorney before speaking to the school about it if you feel your idea is unique and could be copied.

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You most certainly need to speak with an IP attorney. If you write the method in a textbook or teacher's manual, you would need a copyright. If the method has novelty to withstand the scrutiny of patent examination, it is possible you can patent the method. Both questions require proper legal analysis. Many IP attorneys will give you a free initial consult.

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What you described may be protected in several ways.

First, what you call your system will serve as a trademark and that can be protected by your use in commerce as well as a federal TM registration with the USPTO. Before that happens, a TM lawyer should be hired to conduct a proper clearance search and analysis (due diligence, see link below).

Next, any creative expression fixed in tangable form such as your written program materials, proprietary graphics, etc will be protected under copyright law. This material should also be registered with the US Copyright Office. It is important that you consult a lawyer before you hire people to create any of this for you (software, content, graphics, etc) so all your interests are protected.

Further, It is possible that you have an invention here as well that may qualify for patent protection. This is something that needs to be considered very carefully and by speaking to several providers to ensure you are not receiving false information as there are many SCAM artists out there in this space.

Lastly, utilizing Non-Discloure/Non-Use agreemetns properly drafted may offer some protection as well under contract law as you meet with various entities and discuss all your ideas. I will caution you however that there is NO way to protect your "idea" only what you call it (trademark), how you express it in some fixed medium (copyright), or how it works in a novel and non-obvious fashion (patent).

I will link you to some helpful general information below and most of us here, including myself, offer a free phone consult.

Best regards,
Natoli-Lapin, LLC
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The law firm of Natoli-Lapin, LLC (Home of Lantern Legal Services) offers our flat-rate legal services in the areas of business law and intellectual property to entrepreneurs, small-to-medium size businesses, independent inventors and artists across the nation and abroad. Feel free to call for a free phone consultation; your inquiries are always welcome: CONTACT: 866-871-8655 DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.

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It is sometimes possible to obtain a patent on an educational method, but it is very difficult. You must show that the invention was novel (i.e., no one used it before) and non-obvious. The hard part is showing that a new educational method is non-obvious. The "obviousness" test in the patent world is designed to strike down inventions that simply represent a commons sense approach to a problem. Unless your invention is unique and substantially advances the educational arts, it will probably be deemed obvious.

Further, your education method is considered a "business method" patent and these are under attack in the courts and patent office. You cannot patent a law of nature, or a method that does not meet the utility requirement as set forth in the Bilski case---the utility requirement generally prohibits issuance of patents for methods that can be carried out by a human without attaching the method to a machine and/or without transforming an object from one status to another. Cases are currently pending in the Supreme Court and lower courts that may clarify further this "utility" requirement, but educational methods are exactly the type of inventions that generally are deemed to be unpatentable because they involve discovery of laws of nature of discovery of concepts or techniques that can be carried out in the human mind without resort to machines or objects.

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