When you have developed your concept to the point that you can explain to someone skilled in the art how to make and use your invention, filing a patent should be considered. You may elect to have a professional search made first, to give you an idea of what has been patented before in your area.
There are two ways to enter the patent process in the United States for new and useful inventions. The first and best way is to file a regular utility patent application, which usually entails retaining a patent professional to write what will become your patent. A regular utility patent application includes drawings of your invention, a detailed specification, and claims that define the legal metes and bounds of your intellectual property, much like a deed defines the bounds of real estate.
Alternatively, you may file a provisional patent application, which is designed to allow an inventor to file technical information on his or her invention without any claims. Within a year, if you want to continue pursuit of patent protection and you want to claim the benefit of the provisional filing date, you must convert the provisional patent application to a regular utility patent application. Because it cannot be guaranteed that the claims of any utility patent which might subsequently issue from the regular utility patent application would be entitled to the priority date of the provisional filing, you should proceed with care when taking this route.
Once a patent application has been filed, your invention is “patent pending”. Your utility patent application will be examined for patentability by a Patent Examiner in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The Examiner will issue a patentability report, called an “Office Action”, that may allow a patent or that may refuse to grant a patent without some changes to the application. It is not unusual to receive more than one Office Action during the course of prosecuting your patent through the Patent Office. According to Patent Office statistics a substantial number of applications will be allowed to issue. With an issued patent you may stop infringers from making, using, selling, or importing the invention that is encompassed by the patent claims. Not all inventions, however, are found to patentable.
Prior to filing, publicly disclosing or using your invention, or selling or offering to sell it, may jeopardize your patent rights. The timing rules vary from country to country. You should seek the advice of counsel if you have any questions in this regard.