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A patent is the best legal protection for an inventor, so if you think you have discovered a new way of cooking without fuel or a better computer keyboard that will put you on easy street, you will need a patent. Patents, through the federal government, give a person the exclusive right to make, use and sell an invention for a definite or limited period of time. The U. S. Constitution gave Congress the exclusive power to deal with all matters relating to the issuance of patents. The law recognizes that the inventor has a natural right to make, use and sell his invention or discovery. After an invention becomes known to the public for a year, however, it will become public property if the inventor does not have a patent. When the patent expires, the invention will become public property freely available to anyone who wants to use, reproduce or sell the item. Because of this, it is important to apply for a reissue of your patent before it expires.

If you have invented a machine, single item, process used in manufacturing, ornamental design for furniture, jewelry, or such you will want to qualify for a patent. To do this your invention will have to be original and useful. In a case where your invention has merely improved on an existing item or known principle in an obvious way, you will not have a right to a patent. When your invention is a machine, process or item used in manufacturing, your patent will be good for 17 years. If the item is an ornamental design for furniture or the like your patent will give you exclusive rights for up to 14 years.

Begin by contacting a patent attorney. Although it is not necessary for you to use an attorney to get a patent, using an experienced patent attorney can help the process go more smoothly. It will be necessary for you or your attorney to review information compiled by the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office. You can write to them at U. S. Patent and Trademark Office, Washington D.C. 20231. When you write to them you will learn if any similar or identical invention has already been patented. You will also receive an application and if your invention is unclaimed you will need to file your application quickly. With your application you will need to send a detailed account of what your invention does and how it works. They will need to see all the specifications. You will need to explain how it was built and it may be necessary to submit drawings or models. The oath stating that you are the original creator must be signed and the designated fee must be included. The fee should be paid by check or money order and made payable to the Commissioner of Patents.

When you have your patent, anyone who wishes to use your invention must have your permission to do so and they will have to pay you a fee for using it. If your invention is used without your permission or without the user paying you the fee, you can sue them in court and win damages for the losses you suffered. When an inventor discovers he does not have the money to manufacture and market his invention he has the right to assign his patent to another person or company. He can also give someone else a license to use his invention. This will give the recipient a temporary right to use the patent as originally agreed. In this case the inventor will usually require that a payment of royalties is made for the use of the patent.