Patents often protect material things, from manufacturing processes to tangible products. But you can also get patents on what may be the most valuable thing your company owns, even if you can’t hold it in your hands.

Tesla, Inc. recently filed a patent application for a software process that collects data to train its self-driving systems – data that’s coming from their fleet of customers. The company has a large base of vehicles on the road that are creating an avalanche of data that needs management, but their answer to the problem still needs to meet patent requirements.

Traffic overload

A Tesla car’s computer gathers sensor data, and according to their filing, will run it through specific filters to decide what to do with the new information. If the system qualifies it as acceptable training data, the car will send it to Tesla to add to their growing collection.

Testing parameters

Tesla’s development looks to cut down on the tedious work that comes with sorting through data, but just because they’ve developed this new process doesn’t mean it’s automatically fit for a patent. Like patents for manufacturing processes or tangible devices, their software has to live up to specifications:

  • It needs to consist of patentable subject matter
  • The idea or implementation must be novel
  • There must be a non-obvious advancement from previous ideas
  • Disclosure in the filing has to meet standards

Software innovations can be incredibly valuable, and they may be protectable by patents. The patent application process can be costly and time-consuming, so make sure that your invention meets the criteria.