Q: How can I get a patent?

A: Individuals and companies obtain patents to protect new inventions. A patent allows the holder to control the use of the technology for a set period of time. After the patent expires, anyone is free to copy and use the same technology without paying the original patent holder. Patents are used to reward the inventor for inventing something new and useful. The patent holder can exclusively manufacture and sell the patented product or the patent holder can license the technology to another company in exchange for
payment. Individuals with little interest in creating a factory and sales company will often try to find a licensee for their patented technology.

If you have created a new invention, you can patent it, but beware. Patents are expensive for two reasons. First, it costs money to obtain a patent. Most people pay thousands and thousands of dollars to legal firms to navigate patent law and appropriately format their patents for submission. Some people can avoid legal firms, but they have to research patent law and carefully understand the government regulations for patent filing. For those who try to file a patent themselves, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office collects fees that can range from the hundreds to over a thousand dollars. The fees can be investigated at http://www.uspto.gov. Once your patent is awarded, you now have to maintain and defend it. This is where the real expense of a patent comes into play. Although you may control the patent of a key technology, if another company infringes your patent, you may have to pay incredible sums to defend it in court. The upside is that if you win, then you will see a huge payday. If you do not win or if you run out of money, the loss could ruin your financial life.

To read more about patents, check out the resources at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, http://www.uspto.gov. Alternatively, http://www.wikipedia.org has a lot of information about patents.

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