If you have an invention or idea, it is essential that you protect it or run the risk of losing your rights and any future rewards. Here is what you need to do:
First, start a diary/journal in a bound notebook. Include the date of the invention (when the idea was initially conceived) and a description. This is important in connection with filing for a patent in the future as the United States is a ''First-to-Invent'' country. Keep the journal updated as you develop prototypes, make modifications, etc.
Second, prepare a one-page nondisclosure agreement. If you want to tell anyone (relatives, friends, plant personnel, others), the receiver of the information should sign the agreement and keep the invention confidential. This way, you keep your idea protected and have a record of when and to whom the information was disclosed.
But how do you know whether the invention/idea is worth pursuing further and spending time and money in the process? The least expensive step is to run a patent search. This can be done by using Internet access to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) database. Your objective is to find out whether your invention has already been patented.
The final step in protecting your idea is to file a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A patent attorney can be helpful. For information, go to the USPTO Web site or call 800-786-9199.
Photo by ynsle.