Should I invest money to try to protect my invention idea?
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Or should I just rush and make sure I'm the first to monetize it?Being first to market does not always guarantee that you'll have the leverage you're seeking. Especially if you spend all of your money on getting to market and have none left over to fend off interlopers or to make changes once you get customer feedback.
A good place to start is by having a consultation (at least) with an intellectual property attorney to see what you have that can be protected. It's also important to estimate the costs and time frames for protection.
If your invention doesn't squarely fall within the normal IP protection parameters, than at least you'll know how and where to place your emphasis (and your money).