If you develop your idea at an institution like a university or company lab, there are probably procedures in place for filing patents. Talk to your superiors first.
Patents are given only to new and unique ideas. Do some research to see if someone has already done what you are seeking to patent. A good place to start is Google's patent-specific search engine: http://www.google.com/patents
The invention must be "useful" to receive a patent. To do this, you must demonstrate that your device works and does something that someone will pay for. This generally involves building and demonstrating a prototype, although under certain conditions lab tests can be substituted.
Document everything. Take note of when you came up with the idea, any research you did, and any receipts you have for materials used in the prototype. These should be corroborated with third-party information as much as possible: this can be as simple as showing your work to someone and having them sign and date it. If someone is developing a similar idea at the same time, it's these documents that will show who was the first inventor.
Hire a patent lawyer to go over any legal issues with you. This person will research local and worldwide patents to ensure that your invention is unique, and can help you with legal documentation to ensure the patent secures your rights. This is particularly important for the "specification" that you will need to submit to the patent office. This document shows how your invention works, and will be the basis for all future legal claims.
Now you're ready to submit your patent. You can find the forms for U.S. patents here:
Once all the documents have been submitted, it can take up to two years to get approval.
This video is intended to be watched by jury members involved in patent trials, but it has a lot of information useful to patent applicants:
Posted 3746 day ago