I was recently contacted by someone and asked how to patent an idea. He was quite upset when I told him that you can't, that you can only patent an implementation of an idea...an invention. He didn't want to believe me, saying lots of companies do it every day and get rich off of those ideas. (he wants to get rich too)
He has a lot to learn, beginning with what the difference is between an idea and an implementation of an idea.
He, just like many, also has everything backwards in his head, thinking you come up with a great idea, rush to make something, then go get it patented before someone steals your idea. That's not how it works, not at all.
That would be like rushing to create a solution to a problem without knowing what the problem really is, then go look for a problem your solution works for to try to sell your invention, rather than coming up a great way to solve a known existing problem...the best way possible to solve that problem, taking your time to do it well, revising it and making it better till it is the best it can be, then patent it, market it, and sell that solution to people that already want it. (kind of how the coding snacks here work)
There are a gazillion inventions every year and the patent office is overloaded with some of the worst stuff you have ever seen...silly stuff...poorly designed stuff, all in the hopes of getting rich. Most inventions never make a dime and have cost their inventors a fortune by the time they have finished and given up.
I went in search of some good reading material for this guy, since he wasn't going to take my word for it when I told him he was going about it all wrong, and found this fantastic article that will explain in greater detail what the invention process is really about. I figured I would share it and possibly save someone a lot of money & heartache in the process.
Just remember this: Real inventors create solutions to problems, they don't dream up crazy ideas. That's what dreamers do. Real inventors are thinkers, problem solvers...not dreamers.