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Patenting

Most of the time it is virtually impossible to keep secret information about how to produce a new technology product or service. Under these circumstances, entrepreneurs can capture the returns to developing new products and services by creating a legal barrier to imitation by competitors. While there are several legal barriers to imitation—copyrights, trademarks, and patents—patents are really the only ones that have much of an effect at deterring imitation. Therefore, successful entrepreneurs might obtain copyrights and trademarks, but their strategy of using legal barriers to imitation revolves around patents.

A patent is a government-granted monopoly that precludes others from using an invention to create a product or service for 20 years in return for the inventor’s disclosure about how the invention operates. To receive a patent, you must have an invention that the patent office deems to be novel. It cannot be an obvious next step in technological development to a person who is an expert in the field, and it must have some commercial usefulness. Moreover, the invention must not have been disclosed publicly either in an open forum or in print, and it cannot have already been offered for sale.[10]


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