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The single largest impediment for most inventors seeking to secure exclusive rights to their ideas is the long, arduous process of patenting. This includes documenting all processes involved in creating your invention, explaining the inspiration behind it, and researching patent archives to ensure that your idea is unique. Lawyers can make the process much easier but their services can be expensive. Also, inventions are deeply personal so sharing them with anyone prior to their completion can be difficult emotionally. All resources listed come from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a government agency dedicated to protecting your rights as an inventor.
Thoroughly document the research and development of your invention. This helps during the patent acquisition process, and you can use your documentation in court to prove that you are the real inventor if anyone challenges your claim. Remember to sign and date every new page in your records and get them all notarized if possible.
Ensure that your invention is not similar in form or process to any other patented invention. It must be shown to work in a way that no other product does. Use the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tools in the "Resources" section of this article to determine if your idea qualifies for a patent.
Estimate the return you can expect from your invention. Patents cost a bare minimum of $1,500 so you should not seek one unless you are confident you can earn your money back. This price does not include legal fees or any other expense outside of filing with the USPTO.
Search the USPTO depositories for similar products. You can do this for free either from the USPTO's website or at a Patent and Trademark Depository Library. You can also hire a lawyer to perform this process for you, but attorneys' fees can be expensive.
File a Provisional Patent Application. This is a preliminary application and does not require as much money or preparation. However, it also does not guarantee approval of your patent. A PPA requires a detailed description of the creation and use of your invention, a diagram showing its materials and use, and a $110 filing fee for private individuals. The fee for corporations is $220.
File your Regular Patent Application. This application requires a technically accurate title, thorough documentation of all development processes behind your invention, its uses, exact materials and systems within the invention, and diagrams of all subsystems. The documents required for your RPA and an electronic filing system are available free of charge at the USPTO website.