I am a tradesman/craftsman, and have an idea to modify arguably the most widely used tool in my trade, but have no idea where to start.

~ New Braunfels, Texas

Start with visiting a patent attorney. A patent attorney can help you understand the benefits of filing for a patent. Make sure the patent attorney listens while you explain your plan. Tell him:

  1. Whether you plan to build a prototype
  2. Whether you have any trustworthy peers at the company
  3. Who else knows about your idea
  4. Whether the company has any publicly available idea submission policy

A patent is the best form of protection, because, it works against anyone. Other options might include contractual rights under an emerging area of idea submission law, that is generally used more frequently with authors, screenplay writers, and other freelance creative professionals. You will likely need to ask about idea submission law, because, a patent attorney will not recommend it. However, if budget is a big issue, this could be an option.