It hit you like a bolt of lightening, or maybe you've been working on this idea for years. The next and most essential step is to legally protect your idea with a patent. By legally protecting your idea with a patent, you will not only receive recognition for your ingenuity and material rewards for your viable inventions, but more important, your idea will be protected from being commercially manufactured, used, distributed or sold without your approval.
How Do I Legally Protect an Idea?
Locate a patent attorney by visiting https://oedci.uspto.gov/OEDCI/GeoRegion.jsp. Click on the state you reside in to see a list of patent attorneys registered to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Perform a copyright search by visiting http://patft.uspto.gov/ and review applications and issued patents to ensure your idea is original and has not received a patent already.
Choose a patent type. Provision Patents offer patent pending status and guarantees protection for one year. A Non-Provisional Patent guarantees protection for 20 years from the date of filling.
Fill out the patent application online at http://www.uspto.gov/ebc/efs_help.html. Submit the completed application and the associated filling fees.
Maintain the patent by paying the annual fee. For standard patents the annual fee begins on the fifth anniversary of the initial filing date. For Innovation Patents, the annual fee begins on the second anniversary of the initial filing date.