Get an Idea
The first step to inventing anything is coming up with the concept. Start by finding problems in your everyday life that you want to solve. If you’re going to get a patent or try to mass manufacture it, make sure it’s something that could help a lot of people. Once you have your idea, it’s time to make a plan.
Write down every idea that comes to mind. Don't worry about which ideas sound good or not. The purpose of brainstorming is just to get in the habit of writing everything down. Once you've narrowed down your ideas to your favorite one, get an inventor's notebook, and start developing your idea.
Combining your plan and your idea is referred to as "conception" in the inventor’s world. Now, there’s no such thing as “patenting an idea,” so get to work right away on developing your invention. And make sure to document the details in the notebook. Not only will it come in handy should you attempt to invent something again, but it may also serve as an excellent aid if you need to prove in court that you were the first one to conceive of the invention.
The Inventor's Notebook
Document your entire process of invention in the inventor's notebook. Write down the materials you need, the potential names for your idea. Include sketches too. Don't leave a single thing out of this notebook. When you test your invention, write down the results. If it doesn't work, go back into your notebook and see which flaw in your design was the problem. Now you're not only developing your idea, but you're documenting it too. This may very well be the most important thing you do in the invention process.
Reduction to Practice
It’s not necessary to have a prototype to get a patent. But you have to be able to describe your invention to someone who is skilled in the area, with enough specificity, so that he can build it and use it. Once you’ve accomplished this, you gain what the law calls “reduction to practice.” This is why it’s so important to have an inventor's notebook. Now, if someone else files a patent before you, you may still be able to prove that you invented something first, by showing that you acquired the reduction to practice before they did, if that’s the case.
Getting a patent could be the best business move you make in the invention process. This will give you exclusive rights to your product, and no one else will be able to make, use, sell or import your invention. Now, monopolies are illegal, but with a patent, you can acquire what economists call "monopoly profits." To do this though, you're going to need an extremely good patent that allows you to be the exclusive seller and marketer of your invention. But an even more important aspect than that is that you're going to need an invention that people want to buy. To get started on the patent process, Patent Attorney and Intellectual Property Expert Gene Quinn recommends the book, "Patents and How to Get One," available at book stores and online.