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What Price Protection?

Want to secure your invention with a patent? It's going to cost you.

This story appears in the September 1998 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You've come up with an idea for the next big thing--but how do you keep others from stealing it? There's really only one way to get legal protection, and that's to file a patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO).

Many people think that sending a registered letter detailing their idea to an attorney, friend, or themselves (and then keeping it in a safe place, unopened) provides protection. Wrong--it doesn't. I sent myself such a letter for my TopsyTail. Although it was helpful during my patent infringement lawsuits in proving when I came up with my idea, it doesn't prevent anyone from stealing your invention. That's because the only legal form of protection recognized by the judicial system is a patent. And as you may already know, obtaining a patent isn't cheap.

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