Think Big!

Yours Truly

Even if you thought of it first, you don't legally own a product, idea, name or slogan unless you have a patent, trademark or copyright. You can obtain a patent for any new and useful process or machine, or any new and useful improvement to a process or machine. A trademark protects any word, name or symbol used to distinguish a product or service from other products. A copyright protects literary, dramatic, musical and artistic works.

Patents are expensive, often costing more than $10,000. Another drawback: A patent covers only a specific design. After you get a patent, you may find your design needs adjustments to fit market needs??? adjustments that call for a new patent. But waiting until your product is perfected is risky, too, since federal "first to file" patent laws mean someone else could beat you to the punch by patenting your product while you're still perfecting it.

Patents and trademarks are obtained from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Department of Commerce, Washington, DC, (800) 786-9199, http://www.uspto.gov Copyrights are obtained from the Register of Copyrights, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20559, (202) 707-3000, http://lcweb.loc.gov/copyright

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This article was originally published in the October 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Think Big!.

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