Originally Posted by muppetry
I suspect that we are really only disagreeing semantically here on the definition of "idea". My point is that you do not actually have to build a functional device to obtain patent protection - the patent just needs to include a sufficiently complete description of how you would build it. At that point it is still just an idea in my view, but I'm guessing that by "idea" you are thinking more of just the concept of what it would do (e.g. a time machine, rather than the technical plans to build a time machine).
I'm not sure if this is the post you asked me to respond to - if not, let me know.
Yeah, we may be using the word "idea" in different ways.
In order to receive a patent (a regular patent, and not a design patent, and in the USA, dunno about other jurisdictions) the invention must be "useful".
That is why perpetual motion machines cannot be patented. They will not work, and so they cannot be useful. I suspect that a time machine would meet the same fate. Things that are deemed to not be able to be implemented are not useful, and therefore are outside the scope of patent protection.
Additionally, merely ornamental aspects of a device are not the subject of utility patents - that is the domain of design patents and/or the trade dress aspect of trademark law, and/or copyright protection.
And yes, I am using the word idea as an synonym for concept. You cannot patent the broad idea of a machine that does X. If I understand things correctly, you can only patent your specific implementation, and then, only the novel and non-obvious aspects of your invention.
So, if you had an idea, for example, of a tiny little machine that could swim through blood vessels and repair them from the inside out, you could not patent that idea. However, if you invented an actual machine that could do it, and it was clear that your machine would work, and you disclosed novel and non-obvious ways to implement the idea, then (if I understand things correctly) you could patent many specific aspects of such a machine. But the author of Fantastic Voyage could not patent the idea of a miniature machine, even if he were the first to come up with the idea.
In my understanding of things, the idea cannot be patente, but specific implementation can be patented, with the caveats mentioned above.
But I am not an expert on patent law, so I suspect my understanding has defects.