1, Never disclose your idea to anyone without a confidentiality agreement (non-disclosure agreement).
2. Visit the British Library Business and Intellectual Property Centre (BPIC), either in person or online where there are people who will 'hold your hand' through the process and help progress your idea.
3. Check thoroughly that your idea is original by doing an online search to see what's available in the market place, but also do an online search of patent databases - www.gb.espacenet.com or www.ipo.gov.uk.
4. Before your spend time and money developing the idea further, do market research to see if people really need it and if they would buy it. This is tricky becuase you need responses without revealing your ideas - for my non-spill trainer cup, I asked mums if their toddlers spilt juice with conventional trainer cups, how much of a problem this was and would they buy a truly non-spill cup?
5. For an invention to be successful if must be available at a price that people will pay so work at your idea until your find the simplest solution. This includes designing your product to match identified materials and manufacturing processes.
1. Look at the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) website to learn about the different forms of intellectual property rights (IPR). It's generally best to protect a product in more than one way e.g. patent, registered design, and trade mark, in case one form of IPR fails.
2. Go to a patent agent to discuss how your idea can best be protected (although called patent agents they advise on all forms of IPR). A list of registered agents is available from the Chartered Institute of Patent Agents (CIPA). It is possible to draft a patent yourself, but I would advise against this as it's a skilled job that's best left to the experts.
3. Setting up your own business to bring a product to market is very challenging and it's advisable to recognise what you do best and to bring in people with other skills. It's possible to license an invention to a company, so they become responsible for developing it further and bring it to market. The BIPC can help with both approaches.
Invention and bring products to market is hard work, challenging and sometimes scary but most of all it's terrific fun. So if you get a buzz from living on the edge and rising to the challenge...go for it and good luck!
This advice was published in Designing magazine Summer 2009.