Four Quick Steps to Protect Your Idea
Step 1 – Document Your Idea
Keep a written record: immediately write down a description of your idea/concept/invention, so that another person will understand what it is and how it works (download a documentation worksheet here). Have this document witnessed. Keep a running record of all variations, improvements, and modifications to your invention, and periodically have these witnessed as well.
Step 2 – Do a Patent Search
Step 3 – Do a Market Search
Pretend like you’re a consumer trying to find your invention on the market in stores and/or from suppliers. Identify which manufactures may be most likely to offer an invention like yours and order their catalogs and search their websites for similar and complimentary products. These companies are your targets as potential manufacturers, resellers or licensees.
Step 4 – Protect Your Invention
Many inventors prefer to start a patent application at this stage before proceeding further. There is no right or wrong answer about this. The advantage to filing early, even if you file your own do-it-yourself provisional patent application, is that you establish a priority date. The patent office then cannot consider any other patents or prior art after this date in an effort to reject your patent.
On the other hand, with little effort and in a short amount of time you may be able to confidentially present your invention to a key executive in a company in your industry and they may be willing to take over the patenting and prototyping process on your behalf if they have a keen interest in your invention. They may also be able to tell you why your invention will never be a commercial success, which will be hard to hear, but still valuable before you sink any more money into your idea.
WARNING: Keep your invention confidential. Share it only with trusted friends and family who have signed a confidentiality agreement, your attorney, a reputable patent search firm, a patent attorney or agent registered with the USPTO, or a reputable invention marketing or commercialization company or agent that has signed a confidentiality agreement.
To get started, read The Inventor’s Bible and the articles on this website. For more personalized help, try MY DIMWIT Self-Help for Inventors Free. All of these resources contain the details you need to perform the aforementioned steps.