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Keeping A Secret

A great idea is only the beginning. Now you have to find ways to protect it.

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This story appears in the December 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: As the owner of an automotive company, I invented mechanical devices and created improvements to enhance race car performance--many of which are now commonly used in the industry (none were patented). Though I'm now retired, I continue to create inventions in a variety of product categories. What steps should I take to find out if any are marketable? Should I see a patent attorney? I'm looking for legitimate channels to get a concept to market.

A.M. Davis

Oxnard, CA

A: Ted De Boer is founder and president of Inventors Assistance League International Inc. (IAL) in Glendale, California, and a patent attorney:

You're not alone; most inventors don't know where to go for help. They rush to a patent attorney, unaware of the other methods available to them for protection. They prematurely disclose the secret of their invention. Or worse, they forfeit their idea and their savings to unscrupulous operators. All this without an inkling of whether the idea had any commercial value in the first place.

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