Last year the company I work for began the process to patent a product. If you don’t mind doing a little reading you can find most of your answers here:
If you do proceed you may want to get some consultation from a patent attorney. Word to the wise: File your own paperwork (relatively simple). There will most likely be some back and forth with the patent office once they finally get around to your application and there’s no need to be billed $200 – 300 an hour for attorney fees.
Good luck and be patient when filing!
A U.S. patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor(s), issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The right conferred by the patent grant is, in the language of the statute and of the grant itself, "the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling" the invention in the United States or "importing" the invention into the United States. To get a U.S. patent, an application must be filed in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or compositions of matters, or any new useful improvement thereof.
Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.
Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant.