Entrepreneur, Product Developer, Inventor Consultant, and nationally published Humor Writer. Best known for getting 7 products in the toy, tool, nuclear, kitchen and eyewear industries licensed and on store shelves spending less than $100 on each. He currently has two kitchen products licensed and ready for release in 2011. Roger's book "Guerilla Inventing" will be self-published and released in 2010. You can see his products and more at http://www.rogerbrown.net
I agree with Wisepreneur the patent is only as good as your ability to enforce it. You can do a search yourself on the patent office website. Also, do a web search for similar items before spending any money.
You also have to decide are you looking to license your idea to a company or manufacture it yourself? You can approach a company with a NDA. Do not send them your working model unless they ask for it. Companies don't want to be responsible for items they did not request if it gets lost or damaged.