A: A good place to start is to look at patents for analogous products. That will help you understand what is already patented and how much effort it takes to secure a patent. My slides at http://bit.ly/Patent_Searching will give you some tips on patent searching using free tools.
The patent process is not cheap. Given that the patent examiners start out with a default answer of no this idea is an obvious recombination of already known features from other products, there can be a fair amount of expense after the patent application has been filed.
Depending on the nature of your invention and the level of resistance from the patent office, it can easily cost more than 15K to get a broad patent. Sometimes you go partway down the path and end up with no patent at all. So it is a big decision for an individual to seek a patent.
If you found this answer helpful, you may want to look at my answers to other questions about patent law are available at the bottom of my profile page at https://lawyers.justia.com/lawyer/kevin-e-flynn-880338
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