Toys are big business, making billions of dollars every year and employing people across the globe. But toys do not design themselves, and sometimes the next hot new toy isn't designed by those within the industry at all, but by innovative tinkerers who have a great idea. With a little foreknowledge, patenting your toy idea is easy and secures your future rights to that toy when you do decide to market it.
Determining the Patent You Need
You need to decide whether you need a patent or a trademark, or both. Patents are for new or improved invention, while trademarks are any slogan, word, name, symbol or device, or any combination thereof intended to be used to identify the product. For example, if you come up with a new doll that is part of a line of dolls and the dolls are to be made in a new way or out of a new process, you will need both a patent (to cover the actual doll) and a trademark (to cover the dolls' identities and prevent forgeries). Each process is different and requires separate fees, so determine what you need first if your budget is tight.
The Patent Process
Obtain a patent form. You can contact the United States Patent and Trademark Office via its website to acquire the forms to filing a patent. You may need to provide a copy of your toy's schematics in the final approval stage, so have a spare copy ready. File your form. Once completed, you must pay a filing fee to patent your invention. The fee varies depending on the type of patent and how you intend to file it. Small entity rules usually, but not always, cover individual inventors and are determined by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Market Your Product
Get help marketing your toy. Once you have paid all filing fees and your patent is approved, you can use the US Patent and Trademark Office's "Official Gazette" to publish your new invention and help market it to manufacturers looking to make new toys. This is intended to supplement the inventor's marketing efforts, so you may have to peddle your idea to companies independently of advertising in the Official Gazette.
You do not need to wait for your patent to be approved before marketing your toy; the mere act of filing helps protect you in the event of intellectual property theft.
A patent does not protect your invention, but merely gives you the right to sue someone who infringes on your invention.