To patent an idea, you must file an application for a patent with your country's patent office. This can be a long process, and you will be required to prove that your idea is new, innovative, and practical. The specific requirements for patents vary from country to country.
Patents are rights assigned by a government giving the owner of the patent the exclusive right to produce and sell an invention. The owner of the patent can sue for patent infringement if someone else attempts to make or distribute the patented product or service. In some countries, a patent can be issued for a business method or process.
Before applying to patent an idea, you must first ensure that no one else has patented it already. In the United States, you can contact the US Patent and Trade Office to determine if a patent has already been issued. If your idea is found to have already been patented, your application will be rejected.
Next, you will have to prove that your idea is "non-obvious" and practical. "Non-obvious" means that your proposal is an inventive way of solving a problem. This precludes inventions or methods that would be considered self-evident to anyone faced with the problem that your idea seeks to address. Patent proposals must also be useful and workable.
In order to patent an idea, you will have to include detailed descriptions of the proposed idea. In the case of a piece of machinery, this includes materials used in the machine, how the machine is powered, and the resulting output of the machine. Often, patent applications include drawings and diagrams to further illustrate how the proposed idea works.
Patent applications can take months or even years to be fully reviewed, and generally, you will be required to pay fees when applying. The patent office may ask for further information before assigning a patent. If your application to patent an idea is denied, you may be entitled to appeal this decision before the patent office.
If your patent is granted, you will be given a patent number. From then, you will be required to maintain your patent by paying fees to the patent office. If you do not maintain the patent, the patent will lapse, and your idea will usable by anyone.
Once a patent is obtained, it is your responsibility to enforce this patent. If you are aware of someone infringing on your patent, you can pursue legal action to stop this. Generally, the government will not pursue patent infringement cases on its own.