Let’s say you’ve come up with a clever idea that has lots of potential. What should you do next?

The first step is to keep it a secret. Put your idea into the cone of silence. If you need to tell others about it, only tell them what your invention can do, not how it works. Otherwise a spy may be able to put 1 + 1 together to figure it out. If you need external input to develop your idea, it’s best to ask the third party to sign a non-disclosure agreement before you engage them.

Once your idea has evolved a bit further, it’s time to seek professional advice about IP protection from an IP lawyer or patent attorney. Let’s assume a patent is the most desirable form of protection. Before you file a patent, it’s important to conduct a search to learn about the likely scope of protection. If the search finds that your invention isn’t new, a patent application may be worthless. But lets assume the search comes back clear and the closest product found is only vaguely similar to yours. This means you should be able to get a patent for your invention.

The process is started by filing a patent application. This gives you a priority date and a 12 month window before you need to take further steps. If you make any changes or improvements to your invention in that time, sometimes they can be added to your patent specification. An update may be needed so keep improvements secret before you have spoken to your patent attorney.

At some stage after 12 months your patent application will be examined by the local patent office, which can then lead to a granted patent.

And what about the spy that was trying to put 1 + 1 together? If they file an application, a day after you, you have priority and can trump them for patent infringement.

So if in doubt, remember, the cone of silence and early advice from an IP expert.