First, you need to describe your invention in detail. Good quality drawings are helpful. But you don't need to build a prototype.
Next, you need to decide what aspects of your invention are unique . The best inventions clearly stand out as something new and innovative.
The invention doesn't need to be ground breaking , but it is a good idea if you have a clear idea who are your potential customers. An invention with a small potential market may not be worth patenting.
Next, it's a good idea to run a search on, at a minimum, existing U.S. patents and patent applications to determine if anyone else has invented something very similar or identical to your invention. You can perform such searches yourself, but the best searches are performed by a professional search firm.
All of the information you gathered in the previous steps is then used to draft a patent application. A patent application is best drafted by someone familiar with patent law, typically a patent attorney.
The patent application is then submitted to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with a fee. The U.S.P.T.O. then examines the patent application in anywhere from 1 to 4 years. Typically, the patent application is rejected at least once, requiring changes in response to the rejection.
When the U.S.P.T.O. allows the patent application, which is not guaranteed, you pay an issue fee and the patent is issued.
The whole process typically takes two to five years, but while the application is under consideration, your invention is in “patent pending” status.