bCentral Home
Your Online Business Center

Patenting your ideas

Guard the idea that could make you millions

Protect your inventions and products

As an inventor, the secret to protecting your ideas, inventions and your products is to carefully document everything in writing, from the minute you thought about it until you receive a patent from the UK Patent Office. The first step is to keep a detailed journal in a notebook with sewn-in pages, so there's no way a page can be torn out or switched around. Document your progress and date every entry you make.

Before you invest time and money in your idea, make sure it's truly unique. In order to obtain a patent, you have to come up with something really different, even if it is very similar to an existing product. Then invest your time in careful market research. Check out every product that is similar to your invention. You don't want to find out a year from now that the product exists and you've wasted your time.

Share your ideas

If you think you have invented a marketable product and have built a prototype, it's time to share your idea with an experienced registered patent agent or chartered patent attorney. Such a professional will not only help you navigate the patent process but should be able to give an opinion on the marketability of your product. If the agent or accountant encourages you to continue the process, go ahead.

A good agent or accountant should also be able to share valuable business contacts with you. He or she should have a track record of successfully presenting products to other companies.

Your challenge as the inventor is to protect your product while you are trying to raise money to manufacture it. Before you show your idea to anyone, make sure they sign a non-disclosure agreement, promising not to steal your idea.

No matter what you do, stay away from companies that promise to market your invention for a fee. Most of them are scams and will just take your money and do nothing to turn your dream into reality.

In some cases, you'll want to share your idea with a bigger company that has the resources to produce it. For instance, many toy companies buy new toy ideas from inventors and pay them a royalty on each unit sold.

If you are looking to convince an existing company to consider your ideas for licensing it's wise to be aware that while many companies do license the right to manufacture products developed by outside vendors, it can be a tough to put together a deal. The bottom line is this: no one wants to be accused of stealing an idea, so many companies are reluctant to look at anything submitted from the outside world.

If you are certain that the company accepts outside products but is refusing to look at your ideas, it's once again time to take a more professional approach. An experienced patent agent or patent accountant can draft confidentiality agreements and other paperwork needed to assure the bigger company that it can review your products without risk of being sued.

What next?

Visit the website of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys

Sign into Microsoft Small Business+ for free web-based training, online chat help and software support.

sign in
Security information

Find a local Microsoft Small Business Specialist to help with your IT needs

Microsoft Small Business SpecialistMore info >

Do you plan to implement Office 2007 or Windows Vista?

Do you plan to implement Office 2007 or Windows Vista?

Free business newsletters - subscribe now

Our free newsletters are packed full of business advice and ideas - plus all the latest news

Security information

Get the latest bulletins and updates direct from Microsoft