This is a very general outline of the process used to make an idea a reality. Keep in mind that many of these processes can and should be done simultaneously.
The first and most important step in the Invention Process is searching the idea. If the idea has already been made or patented then there is no reason to continue on the journey.
Search the Patent Office
Search the Internet
What is a patent?
Patents are a great tool to give inventors ownership of their ideas. However, it is not always necessary or beneficial to get a patent.
Determining if your idea needs a patent is a very difficult process. If you ask a patent attorney, he will tell you it is the only way to protect your idea and you should get one immediatly. If you ask a manufacturer he may tell you to skip that step because a patent simply exposes the idea in detail to the entire world. They know that sometimes the important part is being the first one on the market, that way you can stay out in front. Unfortunetly, there is not a simple formula to determine if an idea should be patented or not. It takes a lot of understanding in the market, manufacturing process, patents and also a little bit of luck. If you need help determining if your idea needs a patent, click here.
The good news is, that the United States Patent Office realized that determining if a patent is necessary is a difficult process and therefore created a 'Provisional Patent' (click on link above for better definition). Basically, this type of patent is very cheap to aquire and gives you a year to try and market your idea to manufacturers. It also gives you the 'Patent Pending' title and protects you while you talk with manufactureres.
Filing for a Provisional Patent can be done by the inventor or by a Patent Attorney. Once the Provisional Patent is processed, no more information can be added to the claim, therefore it is recommended to use an attorney to help with the application. They have been trained to use the proper terminology to help broaden the claims and maximize your patent protection.
Registered Patent Attorneys
If you are planning on filing a Provisional Patent Application yourself, you can print an application by clicking here.
Depending on your idea, you probably need the help of an engineer or designer. They can take the idea from your head or the napkin you have it scribbled on, and turn it into a 3D model or working prototype. They can also help you work out the kinks in your design and perfect it for manufacture.
There are many companies out there who will take your idea from the drawing board to prototype if you are willing to foot the bill.
A prototype is a physical model of your design which is made to assure feasability of the idea.