Most people with good ideas lose legal rights by not knowing the very simple steps outlined here:

Step 1. Keep it secret. If you want to disclose it to someone use this: NDA
Step 2. Write down what it is in detail and make a sketch or take a photo.
Step 3. Check for similar things using this: www.google.com/advanced_patent_search
Step 4. Write down it’s benefits are compared to findings in Step 3.
Step 5. Get patent pending. You can do this yourself or get our help.
Step 6. Offer your patent pending (a business asset) to a company for licensing and/or start making and selling your product or service (as described in Step 2).

If you need further clarification, please call our office. Initial phone advice is provided at no charge.

Disclaimer: The steps described above are not offered as legal advice but merely to outline concepts and ideas that are known by the public and meant to help inventors get oriented to the invention process. Patent Law & Venture Group, LLC and its employees take no responsibility for the legal or business steps taken by readers of this document.

Don’t tell anyone (not your spouse, child, parent, neighbor, etc.) This is harder then it sounds. Once you have a great idea you want to see if others think it is also. BY-GOLLY, YOU MUST TELL SOMEONE! and you can. As long as they sign a non-disclosure agreement you can discuss your idea with them without generating a legal problem. The following link will open such an agreement which you can download and use as often as you need to.

What is it? Put your idea on paper; write a description out in detail. This is important because it helps you to better get your arms around your idea. For instance, is there more than one way of doing your idea? The US Patent Office demands to know how to make and use at least one version of an idea before they will agree that it’s an invention. There may be different ways to make and use your idea. Write them all down; push yourself to come up with others, be exhaustive.

What value does it have? Add to your written invention description all the benefits of its use that you can think of. If there are no benefits, then your idea may not have much value. Think of the benefits of the various-different versions of your idea, be exhaustive.

This is the well-known Google patent search site. When you open this Web page you will find 12 fill-in boxes. You will do what is known as a key-word or phrase search. If you did a good job at Step 2 and Step 3 you will easily know which key-words to use in any of the top 4 boxes or in the “Title” box on this page. For instance, if you entered the word “wrench” into the Title box and then clicked on “Google Search” in the upper right on the page you will bring up a list of documents that have “wrench” in their titles; possibly too many to look through. So maybe you want to go back and enter “wrench” and “adjustable” into the Title box. Now you will bring up fewer results. You can add more key words to better focus on documents that are closer to your idea. Try to get as close as possible. Under the title of each document in your list will be a document number, it may be a patent, or it may be a published patent application. This number will begin with letters, for instance the following are a few examples:

USD: this is a US design patent (patent protects only the appearance of an item, not how it works).
US: this is a US issued patent. A publication will have a 4-digit year following the “US.”
CN: this is a Chinese issued patent.
DE: this is a German patent.
FR: this is a French patent.
EP: this is a European regional patent (covers over 30 European countries).
WO: this is a publication issued by a foreign patent agency.
It doesn’t matter who has published the document, they all may be considered by the US Patent Office when evaluating the idea described in your patent application. After you have thoroughly read your selected searched documents select those closest to your idea.

Get Patent Pending. If you believe that your searched documents you found do not describe your idea too closely, you may want to move on and file for patent protection. Please understand, though, in examining your application, the Patent Office may select parts and pieces from prior publications and reject your idea as merely an obvious combination of those. This is obviously somewhat subjective. It actually happens all the time.

Here are your patent application filing options:

A) File a provisional patent application to protect what your idea is and how it works.
B) File a non-provisional (Regular) patent application to protect what your idea is and how it works.
C) File a design patent application to protect only the appearance of your product idea.
D) File a patent application into one or more foreign countries.
E) File a patent application in a region of the world like the European Regional application.
F) File an international patent application which covers much of the world.

I will limit comments below to only (A) and (B) above, but you may call me to discuss the others.

The Provisional: Many have taken commercial steps successfully after filing the provisional application. It gets your “foot-in-the-door” excluding others by giving you legal priority under the first-to-file international rule prescribed to by the US Patent Office. However, the Provisional application expires after only one year and cannot be extended. But during that year you may be able to acquire funding to build an operating prototype or to file a Regular application, or even to establish a licensing deal (more on that later). The point is, that while patent pending you need not hesitate to broadcast what your idea is and what a fabulous market ($) it will have; basically, selling a great opportunity. A Provisional application need only include the material you produced in Steps 2, 3, and 4. For more information on how to file with the Patent Office please call my office. (no charge)
The Non-Provisional (Regular): Before the Provisional expires you may file a Regular application on the same idea and claim the filing date of the Provisional. This is what allows you to broadcast what your idea is during the Provisional period. Of course, in that case, if you do not follow-through with the Regular patent application you will have donated your idea to the public. The US Patent Office offers a one-year grace period after public disclosure of an idea so that you can validly file a Regular application within that year. Unfortunately, most other countries do not offer such a grace period. For instance, if you have not established patent pending status but have publicly disclosed what your idea is to the public, or offered a product for sale that is made in accordance with your idea, no valid patent can be obtained in Europe, China, Japan, etc.

A Regular patent application cannot realistically be prepared or filed by other than an experienced Patent Agent or a Patent Attorney. I have had many scientists and engineers ask me to fix their self-filed Regular applications after being rejected by the Patent Office. Usually, they cannot be fixed at a lower cost than what would have been charged to prepare them from scratch in the first place.