Disclaimer: This is advice from someone with a broad knowledge of the industry. This is not professional legal advice and I offer it with only the best intentions of guiding the reader in the first steps of the invention process. Intellectual property and patents are complicated so a professional needs to be consulted if you decide to move forward with your idea. Good Luck.
When piracy was at it's peak in the Arabian Sea during 2010 there was a flood of anti-piracy products brought hastily to market.
Some of these contraptions were just not made with any consideration for shipboard deployment. The winner of my ridiculous anti-piracy device award went to the pneumatic gun that fired sulfurous, smelly, dye infused slime that burned like pepper spray. This is one of the many non-lethal devices proposed to end piracy before the International Maritime Organization released it's guidance for armed guards aboard ship.
The short range slime gun was not much of a match for armor piercing rifle rounds and rocket propelled grenades.
The inventors of this thing were likely sincere but still out to cash in with their invention. A little bit of research would have shown that this might be a worthwhile tool in some situations but it was impractical for the piracy situation at the time.
Make sure your invention is practical.
How do you know this? Ideally you already have a job dealing with this sort of equipment. You already know the deficits in the old design and can design those out of your new system.
If you are working in an unrelated industry then it will be more difficult.
You can take part in online classes and join groups to talk about the needs of the industry.
The best way to find these needs is to get some experience in the field of your invention or sales targets. If your product is successful then you will already have inside contacts when you are ready to manufacture and market your product
Make sure your invention is legal.
Can your product be used globally? Does it conform to MARPOL if it emits polluting compounds? If it's a safety device does it conform to the IMO SOLAS convention?
Because shipping is global products only useful in some ares are sometime shunned. Ships with domestic or regional routes might be better candidates for condition specific products like special anti-fouling compounds.
Always check all laws concerning your product. International, National, State, and Local laws might be in effect in your small home port.
Preliminary Patent Search
You will save considerable attorney's fees by doing a patent search yourself. This data is online in many countries but some will need to visit a patent library. This is a government service so if you are on a budget it can be nearly free if you are willing to spend the time. Investigate patent search companies thoroughly before contracting their services. A poor patent search will leave you with no patent and many legal bills if the patent is challenged and your appeal is not successful.
A simple but often ignored tip.Check out a lot of sources. Do plenty of research. Take note and photos of you process. Keep old prototypes intact as possible. Photograph and document even more. Have some of your work notarized or send documents to a trusted source like your attorney or accountant so they can verify your ongoing process of development and attest to the time and date stamps in the email header
Take some time to look at the collection of information from Mary, our colleague and Guide to Inventions. She was one of the first invention writers on the web.
This is an excellent resource that has a well used bookmark in my browser.