If you've got a million-dollar idea for a new product but don't have the resources on hand to create or market this invention right away, there are ways you can protect it from someone else who might develop the same or similar product before you. A provisional patent is one way to safeguard your idea from competitors.
Search online to determine if products similar to your idea already exist. This will help you to determine if your idea is novel enough to qualify for its own patent.
Prepare detailed drawings or build a prototype of your invention or idea. Also write a report on the function and purpose of your hypothetical product. Describe how it is different from other products on the market. This information will be necessary for patent application.
Contact the patent office to complete an application for a provisional patent on your invention. You might want to obtain the assistance of a patent attorney to help you through this process. A provisional patent gives the product a label of "patent pending" while you continue to conduct prototype testing for the product.
As you begin discussing your invention with others, be sure to have them sign a nondisclosure agreement. Although a nondisclosure agreement is no substitute for the ownership rights secured by a patent, it will afford you some legal recourse if someone tries to steal your idea. Nondisclosure agreement templates can be found online at various legal template websites.
If your product is complete, you can seek a full patent, but full patents are more expensive than provisional patents.
Provisional patents expire 12 months after the date of issue. At that time, you can request a full patent or discard the idea.