United States patent law promotes “the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Generally, it’s the right to prevent others from, among other things, making, using, selling, offering for sale, your invention in the United States. Like Copyrights, but unlike Trademarks, it expires at some point in the future – with some exceptions, this is currently 20 years from the date when the application was filed. But many people don’t understand the term “invention.” It’s not just the latest earth-shattering, game changing widget – it includes certain types of ideas that fall into the category of methods of doing things, like Amazon’s 1-Click, which was a way for Amazon to allow shoppers to buy goods with only a single click. Of course, not all ideas and widgets can, or even should, be patentable. And the process itself is often confusing and arcane. However, if you do have an idea or invention that you feel might benefit from a patent, contact us for a consultation and protect your rights. Not adequately researching your own potential patents has the additional peril of potentially infringing on the patents of others. Consider the cases of Vonage and Blackberry creator RIM – both were once highflying, stellar companies that were brought crashing down to earth because they did not adequately review potential patent infringement. RIM, and their customers, endured three and a half years of lawsuits while Vonage lost $286 million in a single year. The Vonage story made TIME Magazine’s Top Ten Tech Failures of the last decade and is a strong cautionary tale for patent research. It spent $365 million in 2006 for marketing; imagine if they just spent 1% of that amount on research, they could have prevented their massive fall. Patents are vital tool for today’s businesses; don’t let your competitors take your valuable ideas away.