1. Keep detailed, dated records about your idea. Whenever you discuss your idea with anyone, note the date and exactly what information you provide. Remember–you might someday have to prove in court that this is really your idea.

2. To make sure your invention works, build a model. It doesn’t have to be fancy–all you’re trying to do is show that your idea can work.

3. You can find out for yourself whether your invention has already been patented before going to the expense of hiring a patent attorney. If you have a computer, do your patent search at either www.uspto.gov or www.ibm.com/patents. You can also do this search free of charge at most libraries.

4. If your patent search shows that your idea has not been patented and you have been able to build a model to show that your invention works, make an appointment with a patent attorney. You can schedule a half-hour consultation with a patent attorney through Lawyer Referral & Information Services (Telephone: 865-522-7501). The appointment will cost you $25.

5. After all the effort you’ve expended, it may be hard for you to be objective about your invention. For that reason, you should have it evaluated by a unbiased professional. When you do, be sure to have the reviewer sign a non-disclosure agreement beforehand.(Since SCORE/SBDC counselors have to sign confidentiality agreements before counseling clients, they would be good individuals to start with. In some cases, though, you may need the services of someone skilled in a particular technology to review your idea.)

6. Read as much as you can about how to protect inventions and develop new products. Learn how to take your invention from the idea phase to the manufacturing phase. The more you know, the better chance you’ll have to successfully take your invention to market. 

7. Avoid invention marketing companies that promise to market your invention. They are expensive, and rarely successful. The Tennessee Inventors Association can provide you with help in this area.

8. The Tennessee Inventors Association is ready to assist inventors. The Association’s Web site address is http://www.tninventors.org.