You have a great idea for a brand-new product, one you are sure will change the world — and make you rich in the process. But before you can move forward, you need to protect your intellectual property, and that means getting a patent.

When you patent an idea, you protect yourself from copycats, secure your rights to your new invention and give yourself the best chance to make real money. But before you call a patent attorney and ask questions about how to patent an idea, you need to educate yourself.

Just like all other industries, the field of patent law has a specific language. If you do not understand it, and what it means, you could find yourself on the losing end of intellectual property theft. You’ll also be without the resources to fight back and protect your rights to your invention.

So what do all those arcane terms mean, and what implications do they have for your ability to patent an idea and protect the intellectual property you have worked so hard to create? Here are some of the terms you need to understand before you can bring your new invention to market.

What is a Patent?

If you want to safeguard your intellectual property, you will need to secure a patent. That term refers to the obtaining of governmental authority that excludes others from using, manufacturing or selling your invention.

When you take out a patent on a product idea, you prohibit others from using the same idea. This legal protection is what makes the patent process so important.

What Does a Patent Search Entail?

You may think your idea is entirely original, and that no one has thought of your concept before, but without a thorough patent search, you can never be 100% sure. This step is critical, and no inventor should move forward without doing one.

A good patent attorney can help you with the patent search process. By scouring through vast databases of previously issued patents, the attorney can make sure your idea is indeed original and qualifies for a patent. That will make it easier to protect your intellectual property rights and patent your invention. Only then can you can move on to manufacturing and marketing.

How Can I Find a Patent Attorney I Can Trust?

Whether you are conducting the original patent search or moving forward with the rest of the patent process, you will need an experienced and highly qualified attorney by your side. A patent attorney can guide you through every step of the patent search and patenting process, from verifying the originality of your idea to securing the protection you need for your intellectual property?

You will want to look for a patent attorney with specific expertise in your particular industry since that can speed the patent search and help you avoid any unpleasant surprises. Above all, the patent attorney should be professional, honest, and ready to serve your needs and the needs of your company.

How Do I Patent an Idea?

Protecting your intellectual property is critically important, so you do not want to skimp on the preparation. Before you can patent your idea, you first need to determine how much it could be worth. Your patent attorney can help you get a rough idea of value by reviewing the US Patent and Trademark Office list.

The agency also maintains a detailed list of the things that can and cannot be patented, so it is important to review this information carefully. You do not want to waste time and money on an extensive patent search, only to find out that your idea is not eligible for this protection.

How to Get a Patent?

If the results of your patent search reveal that your idea is original and eligible for patent protection, there are some specific steps you will need to take to safeguard your intellectual property. These steps start even before the patent search, so be sure to document everything you did, from how you came up with the idea, to how you chose the target audience.

You should record every step of the invention process, from idea to finished prototype, in a notebook or on your computer. Be sure to back up your documentation by making copies of your notebook pages or copying the details to the cloud or a secure storage device.

Once you have adequately documented the details, you will want to make sure your invention is eligible for a patent. The patent search can take some time.

Next, you will want to assess the commercial potential of your great new idea. The patent office can help you with this, but it is also essential to engage the services of an experienced patent attorney. After your design has been verified original and the patent search is complete, your attorney can help you prepare and file an application, so you can protect your intellectual property and start marketing your new invention.

What Does ‘Patent Pending’ Mean?

It is easy to confuse the terms patented and patent pending, but there are some key differences between the two. “Patent pending” means that you have applied for, but not yet received the protection the finished patent provides.

Your invention’s patent will be in pending status once you’ve applied with the US Patent and Trademark Office, and so it will remain until the finished patent has been approved and issued.

What is a Trademark?

Many people think that a patent and a trademark are the same, but they are quite different. When speaking to a patent attorney, it is essential not to use the terms patent and trademark interchangeably. You should have a good understanding of what the latter is and when its use is appropriate.

A trademark is a logo, symbol, design, words, set of graphics or combination of the above. Regardless of its makeup, the purpose is to identify the company in question, or its products and services.

The trademark, designed to guarantee the genuineness and authenticity of the design, also serves to protect the legal rights of the trademark owner from unauthorized reproduction or use. For example, because the Nike swoosh, the Facebook or Microsoft logo, and other familiar designs are registered trademarks, applicable laws protect the rights of the owners of those corporations.

When you own a trademark registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, no one can reproduce that symbol or distinctive mark without your permission, thus protecting your intellectual property and your idea. The protection is vitally important, so it is important to talk to an experienced patent attorney for advice and guidance.

You should understand the patent and trademark protection processes, whether you are a fledgling inventor or a serial entrepreneur. Before you can move forward with making and marketing your invention, you first need to make sure your idea is as original as you think it is, and that is where patent protection comes into play.