Ethan Nicholas worked long days as an engineer at an electronics company, but his nights were spent crafting an iPhone application that would eventually change his life (the app, a game called iShoot, lets users maneuver tanks and shoot artillery). He learned to code by trial and error since he couldn’t even afford to buy an instruction manual. However, once he submitted the game to Apple (Stock Quote: AAPL), the app began selling rapidly, earning Nicholas more than $600,000 in a single month. He quit his job soon after.
Do I really need another point-and-shoot game, especially for my phone? Probably not, but sign me up anyway.
Inventions, whether simple or profound, can make you famous and rich, but before anyone will pay you for your idea, you have to take steps toward making it a reality.
The good news: It’s become easier than ever to turn yourself into a part-time Thomas Edison, thanks to the Internet.
Here are some steps to get you started on the road to invention:
1. Make Sure Your Invention is New
Before you even begin, visit the Intellectual Property Digital Library. In fact, bookmark the page. This Web site lets you search through thousands of inventions so that you don’t tramp down to the patent office clinging to an idea that’s already been done. (Reading other peoples’ pitches also may help to fine tune your own.)
2. Protect Your Idea with a Patent
Once you’ve settled on your idea, the best move is to patent it before anyone else can claim your epiphany as their own. You will either file a utility or design patent, depending on whether your invention is a functional or aesthetic innovation. You can learn more on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site.
The costs vary depending on what kind of patent you need. Basic filing fees usually run in the $200-300 range, however, there are additional costs if you want to hold onto the patent for several years. Just think of a good idea as an investment.