Media coverage regarding patents usually involves the sale of portfolios or the winning of infringement suits for several million or even billions of dollars. Yes, some patents are worth millions, but most of them are worth very little, and will never be used.
If one wants a patent, because they think it will make them rich, then they are sorely mistaken. A patent is just a piece of paper. Its value comes form the right it grants the owner, and how the inventor exercises those rights.
The purpose of a patent is to give an inventor the right to prevent others from making and selling the invention. The patent itself does not generate any income. A patent is basically useful in two situations. The first is when an inventor has developed a product and another copies it. The patent gives the inventor the right to sue the infringer, getting them to stop, getting damages, or both.
The second situation is when an inventor convinces another that the patent has market value, and the inventor assigns or licenses the right to make the invention to another.
Both of these scenarios require the inventor to achieve a certain level of market success. It is unlikely that another will infringe an invention if the invention is not proving successful, and it is also unlikely that another will pay a licensing fee or purchase the patent without a certain amount of proven marketability.
Inventors should ask themselves why they want a patent. It takes a long time, around three years, to get one issued. And even that is only a fifty-fifty proposition.
Success is determined not by owning a patent, but by developing, manufacturing, and marketing a product that is valuable to consumers. A great idea is worth very little without the abilities to make it a reality.
The patent is secondary. In the first situation, described above, the patent is something that the inventor usually hopes they never have to actually use. I like to think of them as insurance policies. They are an up front cost to deal with a potential situation in the future.
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