The best inventions are the simple ones. Or at least the ones that appear to be simple, the ones that make you think, “Why didn’t I think of that?” So, let’s say you come up with an awesome invention that will make you a zillion dollars. You’re gonna have to patent it, right? How in the heck do you do that? Here’s the scoop.
I did quick Yahoo! Search on “how to get a patent” and was immediately greeted with a slew of results. The first result comes from the good ol’ United States government’s patent and trademark office. The site gives would-be Thomas Edisons all the information they need to protect their million dollar ideas.
But before you send in your application, you may want to learn what a patent is. Generally speaking, a patent gives the holder the right to “exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling” the invention. A patent doesn’t give the holder the right to create anything; instead it denies others the right to copy the invention for a certain amount of time.
Patents are often confused with trademarks and copyrights, but the three are actually quite different. Patents are usually issued for physical inventions or ideas. A trademark, meanwhile, “is a word, name, symbol, or device that is used in trade with goods to indicate the source of the goods and to distinguish them from the goods of others.” Think: Nike’s “swoosh.” Unlike a patent, a trademark doesn’t prevent another company from making a similar product.
Finally, there are copyrights. There are commonly seen on music, books, and games. In the Patent Office’s words: “Copyright is a form of protection provided to the authors of ‘original works of authorship’ including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works, both published and unpublished.” This is what prevents everyone in the world from publishing their own copies of Harry Potter books.
Still want to patent an invention? Here’s a link to all the forms you’ll need. But keep in mind, the process can be complicated. If you’re serious about it, you may want to consult with lawyer who specializes in this sort of thing.
Got your own opinion on the greatest invention of all time? If you ask me, it’s pretty hard to top the wheel, but I think indoor plumbing might be a close second. Third place: the hot shower.
Thanks for reading,
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