Do you believe you have come up with a unique and useful idea that can be turned into an invention? If so, you are likely wondering what to do next in order to protect your great idea. While the answer is simple, the process of patenting your idea can be complicated, lengthy and expensive. However, a patent is the only solid way to protect your idea, whether you want to sell it to someone else or produce it yourself. Without a patent, your idea is free to use by anyone, at anytime.
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Consider whether your idea truly is unique and determine if your idea is something that can be turned into an invention. An idea cannot be patented, and in order for the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) to issue a patent, you must be able to turn your idea into an actual product.
Document your idea in as much detail as possible and then immediately attach a date to it by taking your documents to a Notary Public. Carefully outline the general concept of your new invention, and include every detail you can think of regarding how it works, how it can be manufactured and your possible marketing strategies. Documentation is important to prove, if necessary, that you thought up the idea for your invention before anyone else. Once your documents, drawings and plans have been notarised, be certain to store them someplace safe.
Perform a patent search to make certain that your idea has not been developed by anyone else. A patent search is also useful for locating similar inventions to yours, which could save you money by enabling you to modify an existing product instead of creating a brand new one. Basic patent searches can be done online by visiting the website of the PTO, but a full search that goes back more than 20 years will require considerably more research. The PTO files patents by category, so check any possible categories in which your product might be a fit.
Create a prototype of your invention. A prototype is a model of your idea that can be used to demonstrate the design of your invention when applying for a patent or applying for licenses. Prototypes are also useful in allowing you to see errors in your design theory or flaws in your idea.
Apply for your patent with the US Patent and Trademark Office. A provisional patent offers protection for a limited period of time, during which additional work can be made on the invention without concern about the idea being stolen by someone else. A non-provisional patent must be filed within one year of the filing date for the provisional application. Other patents include design patents and utility patents. If you are unsure of which patent to apply for, it is a good idea to contact a patent attorney before proceeding.
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