We’ve all heard at least once in our lives the word ‘Patents’, we know that throughout history people have fought for them, stolen them and gotten rich because of them. But what’s the big deal with patents?

A patent is the grant of a property right to the inventor of something new and useful, and it’s given by law for a limited period of time, usually 20 years. If you come up with a new invention and you patent it, you have the legal authority to exclude others from making, using, or selling the claimed invention; you can even employ it to raise funds for your business or license it to third parties for commercial returns. But on the other hand, if you invent something really nice and useful but forget to patent it, someone else might invent it -or steal it, in the worst case scenario-, patent it and then you’re going to be the one excluded from using it and earning money with it. I think now we are starting to understand the big fuss about patents.

Patents have existed for a long time, the ancient Greeks in 500 B.C. granted protection to inventors, and the first patent law was enacted by the Venetian Republic in 1474; but not all patents have been as awesome and useful as we may think, history is filled with silly inventions such as a method for swinging on a swing, a face-mask to prevent eating, an anti-thumb-sucking device, a banana case, animal ear protectors for doggies, a bike with a sail and so many more inventions that have done nothing to make the world a better place.

Anyone can be an inventor and anyone can patent their inventions (maybe that’s why there are so many pointless artifacts out there), more than a million applications are currently pending, and over a thousand more are added to the pile each day in the United States, seems like we’re getting creative. But patents are not cheap to get, there are fees to pay, applications to fill and attorneys to hire, and yet, despite the large legal costs of obtaining a patent, 16 percent of patents are allowed to expire after just four years because the owners refuse to pay the $900 maintenance fee.

Knowing all this, before you decide to move forward with a patent, you must evaluate if your idea is a viable business opportunity, you don’t want to spend time, money and energy securing a patent only to find out that there’s no interest for it in the real world. Understand your product, your target market and your competition, make sure no one else has come up with your idea before and make a prototype to determine its functionality. Think twice and think hard, to patent or not to patent, that is the real question.

So now you know you patent an invention and you trademark a logo design.