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Dear L. McKee,
Neither copyright nor patent law protects ideas, although either might protect the item that results, depending on what that item is. And you're correct that patents do protect useful methods or processes. As to your comment about the patent process, it can certainly be daunting, but LegalZoom makes it easy and affordable--if you've never worked with us on a patent application, and think your idea deserves patent protection, we would love to help you with your application. If you would like to explore this further, feel free to contact us at 1-800-773-0888, 6am-7pm PST, M-F