Do you have a unique idea? And have you shared it with someone? Have you patented? If not, do it today.What is a Patent?If you have invented something or made a new discovery, you should be able to enjoy the valuable monetary rights which you can enforce for your own advantage either by using it yourself or by conveying the privileges to others. It is a form of intellectual property which has commercial value. Patent is a grant by the Government to the inventor for a limited period of time giving the exclusive right to him to make use, exercise and vend its invention. A United States patent gives inventors the right “to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling their invention throughout the United States or importing their invention into the United States” for a limited period of time.How do you know whether you need a Patent or not? The question will arise only if you have invented or discovered any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter or any new and useful improvement thereof. You may obtain a patent for it, subject to the conditions and requirements of the law of the particular country by which such Patent is to be obtained. The invention must fall in any of the three categories. First is Utility Patents which includes Process, machine, Article of manufacture, composition of matter or an improvement of any of above items. Most of the patents are for incremental improvements in known technology; the innovation is evolution rather than revolution. Next comes Plant patent, which provide patent protection for asexually reproduced any distinct and new variety of plant. The third category is design patent for the new ornamental design of an article of manufacture. For example all the Star Wars characters were protected by design patents.The test of patentability is three, namely, it must be new, it must be non-obvious and it must be useful. Some inventions cannot be patented in spite of fulfilling all of the three criteria because they are either injurious to public health or violate public morality or public interest or if the law in the particular country has declared the inventions non-patentable in that particular field to which the patent belongs. Also a process of treatment of human beings, animals or plants cannot be patented. In simple language a patentable invention must never have been made public in any way, anywhere in the world a year before the date on which an application for a patent is filed. In other countries, you have no one year grace period and require absolute novelty. It is not new if it is identical or too similar to invention known or used by others or patented or described in a printed publication in any part of the world or the invention was patented or described or was in public use in any part of the world for more than one year prior to your application.Your invention must be sufficiently different from what has been used or described before that it may be said to be non-obvious to a person having ordinary skill in the area of technology related to your invention. The usability angle tells that the invention must be a practical form of an apparatus or device which is operative and performs the indented purpose. It should be noted that laws of nature, physical phenomena and abstract ideas are not patentable no matter how useful they are.The rest is procedural.Once you know your idea qualifies then what you need to do is to get a Patent for it. The patenting process is tedious and time taking which is not possible for a layman to understand. These are handled by Registered Patent Attorneys or Agents and Law Offices dealing Intellectual Property Rights. Before your invention can go for registration you need to do a search for all previous public disclosures that concern your invention. These are called ‘Prior Art’. It includes any patents related to your invention, any published articles about your invention, and any public demonstrations. This determines whether your idea or invention is patentable or not. Again this work is a learned skill and is performed by Registered Patent Attorneys or Agents and Law Offices dealing in Intellectual Property Rights. As search is not impossible you could try your hand in Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL) in your area. A thorough examination of USPTO records is required which has to cover all U.S. and foreign patents as well as non-patent literature.After filing of the application for patent, the examiner checks whether your claim to invention must be granted a patent or not. You have to furnish many specification and description regarding the invention. You are advised to pass them to your attorney who will guide you about writing and claims and other formalities which will save time and money and make the chances of getting a patent brighter.