Can an innovative data visualization be patented or protected in some way?


I'm working on developing a product in the US with many potential competitors. None of the current products deals very well with analysis once the data is collected. I have several unexplored data analysis ideas but one that is really different and I think "game changing" because of the value it adds. Nothing I've seen is remotely like it but it seems obvious to me. Should I seek a patent or some other kind of protection?

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asked Apr 5 '10 at 15:39
113 points

4 Answers


I don't know if you can obtain a patent on your visualization; and I doubt anyone who isn't a lawyer with specialization in intellectual property laws will know. There are significant differences in patent laws between countries, and you didn't even say which country you're in.

Given that you say your visualization is a "game changer", I think you should at least try to get a patent on it. Patents are not a one-way road to commercial success, but they can be a significant obstacle for competitors.

Assuming you're in America, take a look at this US intellectual property cheat sheet and follow some of the links. If you feel your invention has a chance of getting a patent, then engage with an attorney who specializes in patents or intellectual property, and have an initial consultation. Here are some tips on keeping the costs down. Consider making a provisional application first, and then test the value of your invention on your target market before pursuing the more expensive full patent.

2 updates: Having read a bit more, it seems that in America you can often patent user interfaces but not algorithms . I don't know how a visualization would be classified here; so this would be another reason to go see a professional patent attorney.

Another thing, just to be sure, it should be said that obtaining a patent and being able to enforce it are two completely different things. Patent lawsuits often cost a lot of money.

answered Apr 5 '10 at 20:46
Jesper Mortensen
15,292 points
  • US is correct, I edited my post. Thanks for the comment. – Kpierce8 14 years ago


Very definitely - a good example is the hyperbolic tree, covered by several Xerox patents and other derivations. See patent 7143392 Hyperbolic tree space display of computer system monitoring and analysis data as a refined example which cites many of those Xerox and other patents.

answered May 9 '12 at 18:13
Andy Dent
111 points


AFAIK, it is possible to patent a way to represent data. Some data representation for example on the site of NY Stock Exchange are patented. I my current company once, a contracted consultant talked about inventing and patenting a specified chart for data representation.

answered Apr 5 '10 at 17:53
2,288 points


I had a meeting a while ago with two patent lawyers. They advised me of the possibility to apply for something, which gives the right to apply for patents in almost all countries in the world within 2-3 years. If someone else applies for a patent after you have gotten the right, you got precedence. The offer I got for doing this was 24000$ (it was a Danish petent company). I believe that for your idea, this could be a good option as you would not have apply for patents. Once you got this "right" you could sell the right to one of the established players and they could do all the work with actually applying for the patent in each country.

Unfortunatelly, I do not remember the name of this "right".

answered Apr 5 '10 at 18:46
1,567 points

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