Patenting an idea gives you security: it legally labels it as your intellectual property. It’s a long and complicated journey, but well worth the time and effort you put into it.

Here is a look at the several stages you go through to get from idea to reality.

From Idea to Invention

Before you need to worry about a patent application, you must take your plain idea and elaborate on it, giving it form and specifics. Keep adding features and details to your basic idea. This qualifies it as an invention, which is patentable, not just an idea, which is not.

Once you have a detailed, feature-rich idea, you are ready to start the procedure for actually applying for your patent. It is an eight-step process that is complicated and takes time. Many inventors turn to intellectual property experts at this point. They have experience with protecting products and can streamline the process of taking an idea from paper to product.

Here is a closer look at the eight steps involved in patenting your idea.

Step 1. Decide what type of intellectual property protection works best for your invention.

Patents aren’t your only choice. Also look into trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets or a mix of these.

Step. 2. Figure out if your invention is patentable.

Research if your idea can be patented and if something similar has already been awarded a patent. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, or USPTO, recommends working with an expert, but also provides resources and suggestions for doing it yourself.

Step 3. Figure out what kind of patent will work best.

There are three types, utility, design and plant, each with its own requirements. Decide which type is most appropriate and follow the steps for applying for it.

Step 4. Figure out strategy, costs and legal requirements.

There are provisional and non-provisional applications, in addition to those for design, utility and plant. You need to figure out which to use and the specifics of filling the application out.

There are fees for filing, search and examination, but you can reduce your costs by filing online. The USPTO gives estimates for how long the process will last. You can also pay for expedited examination of your invention.

Step 5. Fill out and present your application.

The application needs to be filled out fully and accurately and submitted with the correct fee. You can do this online.

The application contains six major components:

  • Abstract describing the invention
  • List of prior applications
  • Description of the background, circumstances and general area of the invention
  • Summary describing the invention
  • Explanation, with a drawing if possible, of the best implementation of the invention
  • A report of the dimensions and limits of the invention, called the claims or metes and bounds

Step 6. Communicate with the Examiner working on your application.

If your application isn’t complete, the USPTO Office of Action will let you know. After reviewing it, an Examiner will let you know if your application doesn’t meet the requirements for awarding a patent. You have a period of time to amend it and discuss his objections.

Step 7. Get approved!

If your invention is approved, you will receive a Notice of Allowance. There are several fees that need to be paid in order to go forward.

Step 8. Pay regular maintenance fees to keep it in force.

At specific yearly intervals, you will need to pay fees in order to keep your patent in force.

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