Every day, people come up with new ideas and inventions that could benefit the way we live. These ideas have no way of getting to the general public unless they are marketed and sold by people who own the ideas' rights. To protect your intellectual property, you need first to apply for a patent from the federal government. If approved, the government will grant you the sole right to make, use or sell that invention for a period of time. Then, you can produce and market your product and begin making money.
Obtaining a United States Patent
Investigate if your idea or invention already has been patented. If so, you cannot get a patent. Also, determine what kind of patent you should obtain. A utility patent is the most common and is needed for any new inventions, machines or processes. Patents can also be obtained for new man-made plants or for design specifications to an already existing invention.
Decide whether you wish to file for the patent yourself or use a third-party agent such as an attorney. The patent procedure can be difficult, and hiring an attorney often is recommended. The United States Patent and Trademark Office lists registered patent attorneys at https://oedci.uspto.gov/OEDCI/
Using a third party will require you to share your ideas with this person or agency. Consider requiring a confidentiality agreement before discussing your product. If your idea is not yet covered by any patent or copyright, it may be difficult to prove the idea was solely yours if part of your invention is stolen.
Request a patent customer number and digital certificate (http://www.uspto.gov/patents/process/file/efs/guidance/register.jsp), which will be needed to apply electronically for your patent. To obtain these, application fees are required that may cost several hundred dollars depending on the time of your filing. To see a complete list of fees, visit http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee2009september15.htm#patapp
File the necessary paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office online at www.uspto.gov. The procedure will involve describing the idea or invention and submitting diagrams. The agency's website will walk you through the process step by step. Paper copies also can be submitted. The patent office will approve or deny your submission. Rejected submissions can be appealed, which can be done online using your customer number and digital certificate.
Selling Your Idea for Profit
Sell your product idea to a corporation. Many people do not have the initial funding, time or interest in starting their own business to sell their one product idea. Instead, consider selling the rights to a corporation that already has the resources.
If you decide to go in business for yourself, open an online store and work out of your home. Setting up a simple website to take orders will keep you from needing a physical shop, reducing expenses. The rent, maintenance and utilities associated with a owning or renting a shop can put a business under before it gets started.
Give away free samples. If your product is produced cheaply, consider making samples and giving them away for free or at the cost of materials to those who want to help you grow your business. For example, if you create hairpins, your girlfriends may wear them and receive compliments, giving you free advertising and new fans.
Expand your product idea to include services. Perhaps you patent a home product that you believe will be popular, but installing it may be challenging. Offer free installation with your product as a way to boost sales.