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Patents prevent others from using a person's idea or making and selling their invention. What is a patent? It is the document granted to an inventor by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) giving that person exclusive rights to the invention for up to 20 years. Since 1836 the USPTO has issued over 7 million patents.

The complete idiot's guide to cashing in on your inventions
by Richard C. Levy.
Indianapolis, Ind. : Alpha, c2010.
Patent applications are booming! Innovative strategies to market inventive products. The Complete Idiot's Guide(r) to Cashing In On Your Inventions, Second Editioncovers every aspect of the inventing process from concept to market- and this new edition offers more in-depth coverage of the development process, prototyping and manufacturing helping readers identify how to go about turning their ideas into something tangible that they can market. • Written by the co-developer of the Furby and over 200 other products • Features information on how to protect inventions • How to find companies interested in buying or licensing inventions
     
The inventor's bible : how to market and license your brilliant ideas
Ronald Louis Docie.
Berkeley, Calif. : Ten Speed Press, c2010.
Features the Patent and New Product Marketing Workbook that takes you Step-by-Step through:
     
The telephone gambit : chasing Alexander Graham Bell's secret
Seth Shulman.
New York : W. W. Norton & Co., c2008.
"While researching Alexander Graham Bell at MIT's Dibner Institute, science journalist Seth Shulman scrutinized Bell's journals, and within them he found a hint of deeply buried historical deception. Delving further into Bell's story, Shulman unearths the surprising story behind the invention of the telephone - a tale of romance, corruption and unchecked ambition." "Bell furtively - and illegally - copied part of Elisha Gray's patent caveat in the race to secure what would become the most valuable U.S. patent ever issued. And afterward, as Bell's subterfuge led to the world's largest monopoly, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, he hid his invention's illicit beginnings. In this book, Shulman challenges an icon's reputation, rocks the foundation of a corporate behemoth, and offers a probing meditation on the nature of invention and how little we know about our own history."--BOOK JACKET.
     
From Edison to iPod : protect your ideas and make money
Frederick W. Mostert and Lawrence E. Apolzon.
New York : DK Pub., 2007.
Its time for an intellectual property wake-up call! Think intellectual property doesn't affect you or your business? Think again! If you've got a big idea, you need to know your rights and know how to protect them. As technology changes, intellectual property is affecting more people than ever before. Trademarks, copyright, trade secrets, rights of publicity, design patents, and utility patents are all tools that can help you protect your ideas and creations. Intellectual property experts Fred Mostert and Larry Apolzon will guide you through why, when, and how to safeguard your ideas, strengthen your rights, and maximize their value under US law. With these straightforward tips you can protect, profit, and prosper. Book jacket.
     
20 questions to ask if you have a great idea or invention
Michael H. Jester.
Franklin Lakes, NJ : Career Press, 2006.
Eureka! You just came up with a brilliant invention. Now what? Wouldn't it be great if an experienced patent lawyer answered the basic questions that nearly every novice inventor has? Here are just a few: * Do I need to build my invention and see if it's practical? * Should I engage an invention promotion company? * How do I start a business based on my invention? * Would it be better to license my patent rights to a company? * How do I get a patent, how long will it take, and how much will it cost? * How much money can I expect to make if I get a patent? 20 Questions to Ask If You Have a Great Idea or Invention is written in a straighforward style, without legalese. Crucial information is provided to insure that you don't lose the rights to your potentially valuable invention, including time limits for seeking a patent, steps to preserving evidence of your priority, and safeguards for disclosing your inventions to third parties.
     
The everything inventions & patents book : turn your crazy ideas into money-making machines
Barbara Russell Pitts and Mary Russell Sarao.
Avon, Mass. : Adams Media, c2006.
The Everything Inventions and Patents Book is your step-by-step guide to turning your bright idea into a lucrative enterprise. Authored by two successful inventors and businesswomen, this guide shows you how to make your brainchild profitable. With information on everything from protecting your idea to learning whom you can trust, The Everything Inventions and Patents Book sets you on the right path toward turning your wildest dreams into tangible, patented reality! The Everything Inventions and Patents Book is the only resource you need for creating and protecting your idea, your investment, and your future. Book jacket.
     

There are three types of patents: 1) utility; 2) design; and 3) plant. A utility patent is issued to the inventor who discovers a new process or machine that achieves something useful. The inventor who developes a new design or way for a product to work applies for a design patent. A plant patent is granted to discoverers of certain types plants. The utility patent is the most common.

First patent

The first U.S. patent was granted in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins of Philadelphia for "making pot and pearl ashes"-a cleaning formula used in soapmaking.

Before a patent is granted, a description of the new invention must be provided to the USPTO. Patent examiners will read the applications and then search for the same, or similar, inventions in prior U.S. and international patents, as well as in non-patent literature.

Famous patents

1794 - Cotton gin
1876 - Telephone
1879 - Statute of Liberty
1935 - Monopoly (game)
1967 - Computer mouse

(patent search)

It can take over one year to get a U.S. patent. Patent attorneys and inventor associations aid inventors in this process. Inventors may go ahead and market their inventions prior to getting the patent. The product is marked 'patent pending.' This warning has no legal power, but may discourage copying.

A U.S. patent is not recognized in other countries. Inventors must apply for patents in foreign countries to protect their rights.

Patents, and the laws that govern them, encourage innovation and reward those that come up with new ideas and products that can benefit all of us.

More about patents

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff